Get in the Christmas Spirit! Community Christmas Concert
Dec. 7, 7 p.m.
Mesquite Community Theatre
MCJ announces a new Christmas decoration contest open to everyone. Hurry - submission deadline is Dec. 15
Balanced Budget Approved, Community Support Funding Added-Video
Posting Date: 05/30/2012
By Barbara Ellestad
Debbie Cardenas, Mesquite Finance Director, left, Andy Barton, City Manager, and Ryan Toone, Deputy City Attorney, breathe easier after Mesquite City Council approved its FY2012-13 budget, May 30. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.
The Mesquite City Council met Tuesday, May 29 to finalize its FY 2012-13 budget that includes a $17.9 balanced General Fund. That fund is the heart and soul of operating revenues and expenditures and is the largest of all the City funds.
At this point last year Mesquite was looking at a $2 million deficit in its General Fund that had expenditures set at $18.7 million and revenues coming up short at $16.5 million.
The upcoming fiscal year sees a State projection of approximately $7.4 million to Mesquite in Consolidated Tax revenues, "a significant $950,000 increase over the $6.45 million projected for fiscal year 2011-12," according to the budget documents.
The C-Tax, as it's better known, represents 45 percent of the budgeted operating revenues for the next fiscal year. Representing 16 percent of the upcoming fiscal year revenues are property taxes which City Staff projects at $3 million. Charges for Services is anticipated to bring in $2.53 million while Licenses and Permits revenue is projected to decrease by $63,000 to $1,424,500 in the next fiscal year.
Gaming Licenses revenue is also expected to decrease from the FY 2012 budget of $370,000, down to $274,600 in the FY 2012-13 budget. "Of the 12 percent room taxes that are collected locally, 10 percent is passed through to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Clark County schools, the Regional Transportation Commission, and the State of Nevada. The remaining two percent is retained by the City. An inter-local government agreement exists which reverts one percent of collected room taxes for Clark County back to the City to aid in parks and recreation expenses," says the budget document.
"Total General Fund expenditures (including capital transfers of $532,829 out) are projected to be $18,460,170 for Fiscal Year 2012-13. This represents a decrease of $198,745 or one percent from FY 2011-12 budget," according to City Staff.
The two largest expenditures in the City are Salaries and Wages at $8,307,900 and Employee Benefits at $4,200,500. That's about two-thirds of the total budget. The rest, about $6 million goes to Services, Supplies and Other Charges, Capital Outlay, and Other including operating transfers and contingencies.
Total General Government that includes the Mayor, City Council, City Manager, Finance, and City Attorney, is down $145,000 or four percent. Judicial expenditures are up $28,500 due to an anticipated change in personnel when Judge Ron Dodd retires at the end of the calendar year.
Public Safety including Police and Fire Departments is down $149,855 but Animal Control is up $34,000. Public Works is up slightly over the last fiscal year by $32,000. Sanitation service costs are up $161,000 while total Culture and Recreation is up $162,200 or 11 percent.
"These expenditures address on-going services needs while overall total spending has decreased," says the final budget document. "The City continues to provide these community services for approximately $198,745 or one percent less than last year. As agreed to, in the MOU (memorandum of understanding) dated July 11, 2011, this budget reflects returning the five percent salary cut that management employees took last year. This budget also reflects a 2.25 percent wage increase for union employees as negotiated through the Union. Once again, this year we are not funding the Technology Reserve Replacement Fund or the Vehicle Replacement Fund."
The budget documents also address the City's reserves saying, "The unassigned General Fund balance for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011 was $4.1 million. Of that, approximately $463,000 will be spent in this 2011-12 fiscal year. This is $1.7 million less than projected. For fiscal year 2012-13, this balance will be reduced by approximately $144,400 to $3.5 million. Accordingly, General Fund balance requirements, as established by resolution, require a minimum balance of approximately $3.16 million."
Councilman George Rapson began a discussion to add funds for the organizations by saying "the elephant in the room is the donation process. I think it's time we at least discuss it and resolve something or not. To me, there are two issues here. One, is the capital needs that was spoken of to the tune of $80,000. And, the process of the community grants and the process of [awarding them]."
Rapson was referring to a request from the volunteers associated with the Mesquite Community Theatre for a new lighting system and other improvements that are projected to cost approximately $80,000. His second reference regards the application process volunteer organizations have been required to follow when seeking City funds.
"This is really hard for me," Rapson continued. "We have a nearly balanced budget for the first time in some time. It
really goes against my nature to start saying okay, the piggy bank is open because we have a nearly balanced budget. But, I do think there is some benefit to the community in the arts. I do think if we're going to provide a facility, which we do, and we charge rent for, that it should be maintained."
The City technically owns the "Mesquite Campus" in which various arts and community organizations rent space at a subsidized, reduced rate. That includes the community theatre.
"I believe we can at least set aside some funds in the budget this year for the community grant system. Not just the Arts," Rapson explained. "I would like to see the rules changed to be functional. I would like to take this decision out of the City Council. I think this becomes a tugging-on-heart-strings, political deal. I think it would be better served by the Council making a determination in the budget process that there will be 'X' available forcommunity grants and let a committee with redesigned guidelines direct those funds and live with what they do."
Mayor Mark Wier concurred with Rapson saying, "We have a balanced budget and it is hard to make those decisions and to be careful moving forward with any additional funding. But I do agree that we need to fund something in the Arts. We do own the theatre; it's the City's property." Wier added that he wanted capital improvements to the theatre to be included in the Parks and Recreation Department budget.
"The grant process that we have, the rules that we have, have been outgrown. They are not applicable to the majority of functions that people are coming forward with asking for grant funding," Wier added.
He also recommended having the community granting committee set up criteria for disbursing a lump sum of money, determined by the Council, to the various community support groups. "Give them 60 to 90 days to rewrite the guidelines. Go with a pre-grant meeting. Let that committee decide how those funds are given to the community."
Councilmen Kraig Hafen and Karl Gustaveson concurred with the additional funding for community groups. However, Gustaveson said, "I'm not so sure there's anything wrong with the grant process as it has been. I don't know why it doesn't work. There is a very clear cut policy that has worked in the past. We saw a number of people that didn't submit their paperwork and later on they were upset because they weren't involved in any discussions for the grants."
Gustaveson also disagreed with Rapson's proposal to have the Council delegate funding amount decisions to the granting committee.
"With the Council's permission, Staff would like to take a crack at looking at the process and make it easier and more understandable, more accessible to Mesquite residents," City Manager Andy Barton offered. "We can come back to you at a future meeting."
"I disagree in one respect," Rapson remarked. "The notificaiton has to be clear. The deadlines need to be explained. We need to help [these groups]. If we know the Boy Scouts have applied every year, the Salvation Army has applied every year, and we haven't gotten their applications a week before the deadline, a phone call [to them] might be nice."
Rapson also explained that the 'self-sustaining' portion of the grant application was outdated in that most of the groups were non-profit organizations and not 'incubator-type' organizations for which rules required they be self-sustaining within three years. "I think those rules do need to go. It's not working. That needs to be fixed."
Bill Tanner, Director of Public Works requested his department be given an opportunity to review the capital improvement project for the theatre.
Councilman Geno Withelder agreed with the others and offered a motion to provide a maximum of $125,000 for community support with $80,000 for capital upgrades to the theatre and $45,000 for active funding for community groups. "I spoke to Ms. Cardenas [Finance Director] today and she assured me funds were available.
Cardenas later clarified the money would have to come from reserve funds.
None of the Council provided a second to Withelder's motion therefore negating it.
Ultimately, the councilors approved $15,000 for active funding for community support. They also recommended the capital improvements be handled as a typical project that would be bid out and separately approved by the Council. Rapson also recommended handling the theatre improvements over a three year period rather than all in one year.
"I move to direct Staff to do three things. One is to determine the needs for improvements at the community theatre. Rank them in relative priority and determine the costs. The second thing is to have Staff revisit the guidelines with respect to community granting and bring that to Council with suggested revisions. The third thing is to amend the budget for one thing only and that is the community grant of $15,000. That's not specific to any one group at this point but to re-invite all of those groups and allocate accordingly under the new guidelines."
The Council unanimously approved the motion [Al Litman was attending via teleconference].
Posted Date: 05/30/2012 Seems like the city council is forgetting that the Salvation Army is a religion and using city funds for a religious group is illegal. What next, cash to the Catholics and Mormon Church. Let them earn their own funding and not take it from city coffers. By: ralphedwards
Posted Date: 05/30/2012 Well done, council! Providing community funding to the arts and other non-profits is a positive thing...especially when you consider it's only $15,000 out of a $17 million budget. And, you used some common sense on the upgrades at the theatre instead of just overspending in one big lump sum. (Remember, the city put up $300,000 for "renovations" to the theatre just 2 years ago). The only thing I disagree with -- allowing a committee to make the decisions as to who gets what. YOU are the elected individuals, not some hidden, unelected committee members. YOU should be the ONLY ones making that final decision. Other than that...great job! By: Jeremiah
Posted Date: 05/30/2012 @ralph,
The family resources offered to many Mesquite residents by the Salvation Army have nothing to do with religion.
Yes the charity is ran by a church. The local office helps people with paperwork for state programs, emergency food assistance, a food bank, rental assistance, parenting classes and much more. We do not have a state Human Services office in Mesquite. The Salvation Army fills a huge need in this city.
People of all faiths use the services offered by the Salvation Army. By: Cindi Delaney
Posted Date: 05/30/2012 Good job council. Just keep an eye on those reserve funds that they don't get manipulated. By: Vic
Posted Date: 05/30/2012 Nice job Mayor and council. Open transparent and thoughtful. By: Fran
Posted Date: 05/30/2012 Cindi, thanks for the info. I defer to you. By: ralphedwards
Posted Date: 05/30/2012 Good budget. Good job. By: larry