Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2018

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Las Vegas OKs $1.2B budget, continues long climb out of recession

The Las Vegas City Council today voted unanimously to approve a $1.2 billion budget for the next fiscal year, marking the first time spending and income exceeded 2008 levels since the Great Recession.

The fiscal year 2017 budget is the fifth year in a row with no deficit — largely thanks to the city’s pre-recession spending cuts. City departments also trimmed their budgets by 2 percent, saving $4.5 million in the new overall budget.

“We are coming back,” finance director Venetta Appleyard told the council.

She was referring to the city’s gradual climb out of the recession, which, in fiscal year 2012, caused expenses to eclipse revenue. The city anticipates equal spending and income in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

While that’s all good news, it doesn’t mean the city is thriving financially. Consolidated tax revenue — made up of sales, cigarette, liquor, real property transfer and fuel taxes — has generally recovered from the economic downturn, but property taxes have not. Property tax revenue remains relatively flat because of tax caps enacted during the height of the housing boom.

Plus, the city has grown in the past eight years, meaning the municipality serves a larger population and oversees more streets, parks and fire stations, said Mark Vincent, the city’s chief financial officer. Meanwhile, city staffing has not kept pace.

The number of full-time, nonpublic safety employees still lags 2008 levels, despite the addition of 28.5 such positions in the new budget. (The fiscal year 2017 budget also includes 42 new public safety-related positions.)

“It’s been very difficult for us to keep pace with the service demands over the last eight years,” he said.

Of the planned spending totaling $531.6 million during the next fiscal year, the majority — 54.4 percent — goes toward salary and benefits. Another 26.1 percent goes to Metro Police.

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