Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 | 2:06 p.m.
In the midst of highlighting the city’s accomplishments during his State of the City address today, Mayor Andy Hafen acknowledged Henderson was approaching a financial crossroads.
As happened across the valley, the recession has depleted Henderson’s revenues. Yet Henderson has been able to soften the blow through a series of conservative budget measures.
Now, it is looking to begin investments in the recession's aftermath. But to do so, it will need to find a way to fund a series of anticipated capital improvement projects estimated to cost $17 million.
“At the crossroads we’re approaching lies the question of: Do we want to continue to make the investment to be premier, or do we kick the can down the road, so to speak?” Hafen said. “As we look ahead, we have a critical need to reinvest in the infrastructure of our city.”
Throughout the recession Henderson remained in national rankings from magazines like Forbes and Money as one of the best and safest places to live in the United States, Hafen said. It has maintained the same property tax rates as 23 years ago, and grown to more than 270,000 residents.
Yet like all cities in the valley, Henderson has had to make cutbacks to meet dwindling property tax revenue brought on by a crash in housing prices. Over the last six years, the city has cut millions from its budget to deal with falling revenue and increased operating costs. The city has had to cut jobs outside of the public safety area, consolidated jobs and outsourced some services.
Hafen lauded union workers and city employees for accepting concessions that have helped the city save more than $40 million.
“We’ve all had to make difficult choices over the last few years that have been painful to make but necessary,” Hafen said. “And as I look back on the decisions we’ve made, we’ve been responsible in how we’ve managed through the ups and downs.”
But to move forward, Hafen said, the city needs to re-evaluate its budget to invest in upcoming capital needs, including repairs to its 820 miles of roads, renovating aging recreation centers and updating an outdated crime lab.
He said it would take 25 years for the city to return to prerecession revenue levels. As a result, the city has selected a special ad hoc budget committee, Hafen said. The group is tasked with finding ways to review the city’s budget and operations to make recommendations for cost containment and opportunities for improvement.
The goal is to ensure the city’s future stability, Hafen said.
“We need to reinvest in these vital areas if we are going to continue to be America’s premier community,” Hafen said.
Hafen remained optimistic despite the challenges. He highlighted the city’s growing business and education services that includes the Flowers Baking Company, Barclycard US office and a Touro University expansion. Meanwhile, the city is working to revitalize downtown.
The city also reached a key agreement with Union Village, which is planned to be the first integrated health village in the world and create 17,000 jobs, and the development’s primary tenant, Valley Health Systems. Planned since 2011, Union Village’s campus would be located at Galleria Drive and U.S. 95.
The expansions will help bring in more jobs to the city and improve education opportunities in the city.
While Henderson is at a crossroads, Hafen is optimistic that the city will make the right decisions to move forward.