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October 20, 2014

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Six Questions :

Henderson’s toughest challenges: Mark Calhoun, City Manager

Henderson City Manager Mark Calhoun moved to Henderson from Michigan in 1983 to take a job as city engineer.

That’s a key part of his persona, he says: As an engineer, he’s conservative by temperament.

His fiscal conservatism could help as Henderson faces its worst budget crisis in recent memory. Calhoun replaced Mary Kay Peck in May. The City Council fired her the previous month, in part for creating a “culture of fear” in the office. Peck disputed the allegations and filed a wrongful termination suit, which was thrown out by a federal judge last month.

How have you adjusted to the job?

Since I became city manager, the economic situation has obviously gotten worse. Consolidated tax revenues have dropped. There have been a number of things the city has been doing to try to mitigate some of the loss of revenue.

Apart from the economic situation, what are the toughest challenges the city is facing?

They’re growth-related. Permits are down, new business activity is way down. The city’s population has stopped growing. So there’s not a lot of new housing, either residential or commercial, being built. Business is down, and that means our activity is down.

What is the scope of Henderson’s economic problems?

Our revenues are down more than 30 percent from where we were two years ago. From receiving $7 million to $9 million per month in consolidated tax revenue at that time, we’re now receiving about $5 million per month.

What have been the consequences at Henderson City Hall?

There are 200 hundred fewer people in our government than there were, from about 2,000 to 1,800 workers. That was done through a combination of general attrition, cutbacks, buyouts and early retirements.

How else is the government adjusting?

We’re tightening our belts. We’re trimming things back, such as travel. And I’m sure that if you talk to some of our employees, they’re really working much harder today. But there may be further personnel cuts. We’re hoping to save $12 million to $15 million annually.

How will Henderson residents be affected?

We have not yet made cuts to services, so we’re still performing as we did before, just with fewer people. We’re now discussing possible service cuts — but the timing and exact nature of these cuts will depend on what the City Council wants to do.

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