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Las Vegas City Council approves $498 million tentative budget

The tentative budget approved Monday by the Las Vegas City Council was described by Councilman Bob Coffin as “a conservative budget that accomplishes much of what we wanted, but not all.”

The city will spend $9 million more than it takes in, or $498 million. That is a deficit of $2 million more than the current fiscal year, which ends July 1.

Without last year’s fee increases, according to City Manager Betsy Fretwell, the $7.1 million deficit would have been more like $15 million. Nevada requires a balanced budget for governments, so the $9 million will come out of the nearly $100 million in city reserves.

Most of the fee increases have been in the area of parks and recreation, building and safety, and business licensing. Some of the fees hadn’t changed in 30 years.

Improving the speed of granting business licenses is one goal. “With streamlining, we’re performing better than before and we’re making significant investments in technology to make sure we can continue that. We’re changing how fast you can get your business licenses so people continue to start their businesses here,” Fretwell said.

The budget doesn’t take into account any additional revenues or expenditures that would occur if the city licenses medical marijuana operations.

“Business licensing doesn’t have the staff to handle medical marijuana licensing,” Fretwell said, but she noted that any additional staff additions wouldn’t start until July 1, the start of the fiscal 2015 year.

Salary and benefits makes up 53 percent of the city budget, and another 26 percent goes to fund the Metropolitan Police Department. That doesn’t include an extra $1.6 million that Clark County Chairman Steve Sisolak suggested the city could contribute to add a total of $5 million to the police budget.

Capital improvements take a hit with $66.5 million requested but only about $47 million approved. The $19.6 million that isn’t funded would be for roads, floods and public safety.

The enhancements of $7 million includes hospital transports by the Las Vegas Fire Department, recreation fees, municipal court, business license and building and safety, according to the report presented by the city’s new finance director, Venetta Appleyard.

Sixty-one new or restored positions will be added, with 30 of them in public safety. The largest boost is hiring 16 corrections officers for the isolation unit in the city jail and 12 firefighters for the new Fire Station 108.

No one from the public commented on the tentative budget, and the final budget hearing will be held May 20 so there is still time for the public to have a voice in the budget.

The municipalities must file their final budgets with the Nevada Department of Taxation by June 1.

Contact Jane Ann Morrison at jmorrison@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275.

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