The Mesquite city council held a special meeting on May 20 to make final changes to the proposed budget for fiscal year 2015.  The final budget approval will come at the regular council meeting on May 27.

The proposed budget of over $18,000,000 has a projected deficit of about $1.1 million, which will be covered by the ending fund balance in the general fund, leaving a balance in reserve of about $5 million.  Nevada is one of the few states that allow local governments to adopt unbalanced budgets.

The council has already made cuts to the original budget of over $500,000 trying to get to a balanced budget.

Most of the discussion concerned overtime pay for police and fire.  Councilor Rich Green started the discussion by noting that the proposed budget had over $503,000 for overtime.  Police and fire services account from about 96 percent of overtime costs to the city.

“I recommend we rethink overtime in the budget,” said Green.  He then proposed for discussion cutting the overtime budget by 50 percent.  “Let’s see how well our managers can manage their budgets,” said Green.

Councilor George Rapson questioned the proposed cut “I don’t think anyone believes a budgeted item is an explicit license to spend.”  Rapson also noted that the city had made substantial staff cuts and “When we are running lean and tight overtime will happen.’  Rapson added that he “Just wants to be realistic, I don’t want it padded and I don’t want it understated I just want to see something realistic.”

With the apparent disagreement Mayor Al Litman called for a vote to give direction to staff on whether to cut overtime by 50 percent or leave it as it is in the budget.  Rapson suggested that there were more than two options “I’m not against cutting overtime I just want it to be realistic,” Rapson said.

Rapson then suggested that they “Split the difference” and reduce overtime by 25 percent.  More discussion followed and eventually it was decided by consensus to reduce budgeted overtime by 25 percent.

Police Chief Troy Tanner asked to speak to the council after the decision.  Tanner noted that the overtime number didn’t include income the city received when supplying police officers or in grants.  Tanner gave examples of a $65,000 grant the city received for overtime and the $18,000 paid by the school district for police at events.

Tanner said that “With grants, over $80,000 was paid towards the $146,000 police budget for overtime.”  Tanner also told the council that overtime is needed in the dispatch budget due to the shortage of dispatchers and the high turnover rate.  With a 25 percent cut “There won’t be enough money,” Tanner told the council.

Tanner was followed by interim Fire Chief Rick Resnick who told the council his department had already reduced budgeted overtime to about $40,000.  “I think we can live with that…but cutting it even further will put us in dire straights,” said Resnick.

Councilor Green noted that “I think those are valid concerns and we don’t want to interfere with the valid operations and maybe we are pushing a little too hard here.”

After discussion, the council directed staff to set overtime at $450,000, which is a reduction of $50,000 over the proposed budget and close to the estimated amount of overtime that will be spent in the fiscal 2014 budget.

In other budget decisions the council agreed to add back in $13,000 for training of personnel in three departments.

The final budget hearing will be on May 27 at the regular council meeting at 5 pm.