Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Just one month after approving a round of budget cuts intended to carry the city through the recession, plummeting tax revenue is prompting the Henderson City Council to consider more cuts.
Consolidated tax revenue — money collected on sales and other taxes that is distributed among local jurisdictions — fell 21.73 percent from June 2008 to June 2009. The share Henderson gets accounts for one-third of the city’s general fund revenue.
The decline was far greater than the 15 percent drop the city had forecast.
June 2009 also was the 10th month in a row of double-digit revenue decline compared with the same months of the previous year, and the 28th consecutive month of overall decline.
“What we’re seeing now is two years of year-over-year, double-digit decreases, and you have to go back quite a way to find something like that,” Henderson Finance Director Steve Hanson said. “We’re still not seeing a lot of bottoming action in the numbers.”
In August the council unanimously approved the first tier in a three-tier system of budget cuts. The cuts permanently deleted a number of vacant positions and cut line items throughout the city budget, creating projected savings of almost $9 million per year.
Hanson said he will be briefing council members on Category 2 cuts — including in municipal services — in the coming weeks. If approved, the Category 2 cuts will save the city another $10 million to $12 million annually, and balance the budget based on current projections, Hanson said.
In the updated five-year budget projection that Hanson showed the City Council on Tuesday night, every possible reserve fund in the city’s budget was exhausted to keep Henderson in the black.
Category 3 cuts, if implemented, would include layoffs of city employees.
Though many of Henderson’s proposed capital investment projects have been indefinitely delayed, the city is preparing to begin construction on a
$35 million jail expansion that will add 250 beds.
The expansion is proceeding even though Henderson Police do not currently bring in enough inmates to fill the jail’s current 273 beds.
Henderson City Architect Mark Hobaica said the detention center expansion was allowed to continue because it had been funded before the city’s budget crisis and was identified as a priority project.
Construction is expected to begin in January and last about 18 months.
Henderson is able to keep its jail fairly full by housing Boulder City’s inmates and some U.S. Marshals Service and Metro Police inmates.
Those agencies pay Henderson $97 to $101 per day for each inmate, which is within a few dollars of the estimated comprehensive cost Henderson incurs.
But that comprehensive cost includes paying corrections officers and utilities for the detention facility. Because Henderson would be paying those costs in any case, filling up the jail with inmates from other jurisdictions only creates the added expense of feeding them, Henderson Police spokesman Keith Paul noted.
A mistake by city employees has apparently bound Henderson to allow a group home for the elderly to continue operating in Serene Country Estates, despite neighbors’ and City Council members’ opposition.
The employees erred when they issued a business license to Sweet Home Belmont in January. But because the mistake was the city’s fault and the home’s owners invested so heavily in their business and have operated it for eight months, they have the right to continue doing so, Deputy City Attorney James Martines told the City Council on Tuesday.
City employees should not have issued the business license because the home also required a conditional use permit. A city ordinance requires any group home located within 1,500 feet of another group home to obtain a use permit, and Sweet Home Belmont is about 200 feet from another group home; if not for that, a business license would have been sufficient.
Martines, however, said the city’s ordinance may not be enforceable anymore, based on recent case law related to the federal Fair Housing Act that found such distance requirements to be discriminatory.