County officials to discuss cost cuts to meet balanced budget deadline

A clearer picture of how Clark County’s gaping shortfall could affect services and staffing should emerge at a budget hearing tonight .

County commissioners and managers will discuss how to trim costs — labor being the biggest one — to meet the June 1 deadline for submitting a balanced budget to the state.

They are expected to talk in greater detail about specific cuts to programs and the county work force than in previous meetings this year.

The budget includes the $1.2 billion general fund, which covers daily operations and is fed mostly by taxes and fees.

Officials estimate a $105 million shortfall, partly from a $36 million drop in property tax revenue. That does not count impending legislative actions that could cost the county $125 million a year.

Members of the public will have a chance to comment.

“I’ve been told we’re getting hard facts, hard numbers,” Commissioner Steve Sisolak said Tuesday. “It’ll be good if people show up to listen, to hear, to participate. Ultimately, these cuts are going to affect services.”

Commissioner Larry Brown said he heard that 200 jobs are on the chopping block, though he does not know how many are vacant and how many would be layoffs.

“We’re talking about a significant number of layoffs,” Brown said. “There’s going to be some tough decisions made in the next couple weeks.”

Commissioners will meet again on May 16 for to put final touches on the budget before it goes to the state.

In February, County Manager Don Burnette asked about three dozen department heads to submit plans for cutting their costs by 9 percent.

But a 2 percent rollback in pay for managers and 6,300 county employees will reduce the proposed cost-cutting to 7 percent. The wage reductions will save an estimated $10.3 million and preserve about 100 jobs.

Some county employees are resisting austerity.

District Attorney David Roger has refused to make cuts, arguing that his department already is understaffed and that further reductions would compromise his ability to prosecute criminals.

And last week, University Medical Center workers rejected a proposed 2 percent pay cut that would have saved the hospital $5.5 million.

Brown said everyone must give up something in these tough times.

“I think the real question is going to be which departments stepped up and which departments need to give more,” Brown said.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the commission chambers, County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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