Las Vegas Sun

August 29, 2015

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Panels propose ideas to squeeze state budget

CARSON CITY — As the state looks to save every nickel, fewer state employees might have private offices in the future and may be working out of cubicles.

There also may be fewer managers to oversee those employees.

Agencies may have to cut spending on subscriptions and periodicals, and taking home state vehicles could be limited.

Those are some of the proposals developed by the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE) and the Legislative Committee on Base Budgets. The upcoming Legislature will have to deal with a deficit of at least $1.2 billion and probably more.

One recommendation of SAGE is that state employees use less office space. SAGE member Tim Ruffin of Reno said the goal is for the state to use 25 percent less space in five years.

“Some people don’t need an office,” he said, referring to those who work out of their homes or are on the road a lot. He said he toured Hewlett Packard in Reno and everyone had a cubicle instead of a private office.

SAGE is also recommending consolidating state agency website management. Individual agencies have created websites that have led to redundancy of personnel tasks and increased costs. The cost savings in one year could be up to $500,000.

The panel is also recommending that office leases be conducted by one agency. SAGE Chairwoman Carole Vilardo said eight agencies are negotiating their own leases when there are experts in the state Division of Buildings and Grounds.

“Why duplicate when we don’t have the money?” Vilardo asked.

But SAGE found that agencies are doing a good job in negotiating leases below the market level. “I don’t’ see a lot of inefficiencies in real estate,” said SAGE member John Restrepo of Las Vegas.

The Legislative Committee on Base Budgets, meanwhile, wants the 2011 Legislature to look at possible cutbacks on spending by agencies for subscriptions and periodicals that totals about $2.2 million a year.

In another area, employees are authorized to take home 341 state vehicles, excluding Nevada Highway Patrol and Division of Parole and Probation vehicles. Legislative fiscal experts say there is little oversight on allowing these vehicles to be taken home at night. But they said that sometimes the vehicles are less likely to be vandalized at employees’ homes than if parked at the state agency at night.

The committee also said an undetermined amount of general fund savings may be realized by increasing employee-to-manager ratios and eliminating manager positions in agencies funded with general fund appropriations.

Different agencies have different employee-to-manager ratios. For instance, the field staffs of state Division of Welfare and the Department of Motor Vehicles use a 10-1 ratio. The state Department of Corrections has a 12-1 ratio.

SAGE is sending its recommendation to Gov. Jim Gibbons and Vilardo said she is sharing proposals with Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval.

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