Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2018

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Report: Las Vegas city financial picture improving

Budget deficit on the decline for the first time since May 2009

There were no fireworks, horns or flashing neon lights typical of a Las Vegas celebration.

In fact, the message almost got lost amid a presentation to the Las Vegas City Council containing slides of budget charts, tax projections and economic indexes.

"You're putting us all to sleep up here," Mayor Oscar Goodman groused at one point to Mark Vincent, the city's chief financial officer, as Vincent went through his financial forecast.

But the numbers themselves pointed out the good news — since May, the city's projected budget deficit for the next five years has dropped from $270 million to $66 million.

Part of the reason is that the economy has bottomed out, Vincent said.

But part of the reason, too, is that the city council has made administrative decisions in the last year that have helped reduce the deficit and made it less likely to be forced to cut employees again next year, he said.

The financial forecast Vincent presented shows the city will have a $12.7 million shortfall next year — but will have $55.5 million in reserves to help cover it.

"This is getting in the range that is workable and manageable for us. And that's encouraging news," Vincent told the council.

"It's not a great picture. It's certainly not a growth picture. It's not a picture that we're going to be addition positions back any time soon," he said. "But it's starting to feel like we're stabilizing a little bit and can get through this."

The news is a major change in what the city's budget planners had dealt with in the last year and a half. In May 2009, they were looking at a budget deficit of $200 million. That zoomed up to $265 million in November 2009.

It then peaked out at $270 million in May, just before the city council laid off about 200 employees, cut programs and — most recently — decided to have most city workers go to a 38-hour, four-day work week.

Vincent said the city will begin its budget process in December to plan for the next fiscal year.

He said the big issue will be for finding out what reductions in property values over the year will mean in terms of property tax revenue coming into the city's coffers.

"That's going to be the one we're most anxious about," he said.

Also, by next spring, the city will also have four to five more months of sales tax revenue figure to use to determine how much revenue the city will get from consolidated tax revenue for next year.

Current projections show that the consolidated tax will increase next year from $201.5 million to $208. 6 million and property tax revenue will decline from $102.8 million to $88.4 million, he said.

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