Washoe's Recap: 2016's "State of the County"
What happened this year in Washoe County is providing a clearer picture of how 2017 will be.
Washoe County finally presented their progress report on 2016. The delayed State of the County was presented to a packed house today (Tuesday). And just like every State of the Union, City...and County, it's all about the money. As County Manager John Slaughter told us, “It plays a big part, because of course over the years we've been challenged."
Challenged they were. Today is a far cry from the dark days, when the county had to cut a third of its workforce during the recession. Washoe is still rebuilding: of the 1,200 county jobs lost, 1,100 have been brought back...the county manager stressing how important they are: "The variety of services they provide the community, and every day, it's sometimes not even known that those are county employees providing those services."
But it wasn't so much 'looking back' at the presentation. There was plenty of looking ahead too. What's new? The county has its first balanced general fund budget in six years. And they announced another $18 million going to improve Washoe County parks. County Manager Slaughter told us, "It’s a huge priority for our community. Parks, over the time from the recession, their budget was reduced by up to 60%!”
County Commission Chair Kitty Jung says the money is keeping a promise to the public: "They understood at the time it was a priority to keep public safety, but we had always promised them that as soon as we had any extra funds, we would start reinvesting in our parks and open space."
Also new: the $12-million medical examiner and coroner's office, set to open in December. Slaughter says, "It’s a 21,000 square-foot facility that will better serve us and the 18 counties in northern Nevada and northern California."
And county spending is up...but not too much. Slaughter told the crowd, "Washoe County's General Fund expenditures will only grow 1% as compared to the last fiscal year, reflecting the county's conservative approach to spending."
Other plusses: Washoe County's bond rating stays the highest in northern Nevada. They also plan to increase reserves as a buffer against future downturns. Plus, Washoe 311, a contact number for the public to call the county, will soon be in operation. It’s already taking online messages.
Not mentioned: the decreasing affordability with higher home prices…or the over-capacity and under-performing county schools. Not their department, they say. As Jung explained, "We don't oversee the Washoe County school district. It's a whole other board." But it is something they say is not ignored.
State of the County 2016 ended...with a thanks. Slaughter closed the address this way: "A thanks to all of our 2,500 employees who work every day to provide and sustain a safe, secure and healthy community."