Paid for by Jim Alworth

The Ely City Council meets this Thursday with a six-page agenda. Many items to be covered vary from water and sewer rate changes, landfill rates, changing the days of city council meetings to 8:30 a.m. Fridays and the continuous topic of the city budget.

One agenda item placed by Councilwoman Jolene Gardner and City Administrator Bob Switzer is to approve the first reading of Ordinance No. 708, Bill No 2018-01, an ordinance that if approved will allow the city and county elections to run concurrent on even numbered years, instead of odd numbered years.

There would be a one time extension on Mayor Melody VanCamp’s term in addition to Councilwoman Jolene Gardner and Councilman Kurt Carson’s seats to be extended to 2020.

Wayne Thorley, Deputy Secretary of State for Elections said “Many municipalities in Nevada have confronted this issue in the past. NRS 293C.115 allows cities in Nevada to hold their elections in even-numbered years in conjunction with the federal and state elections or in odd-numbered years pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 293C of NRS.  A city just has to adopt an ordinance indicating whether the city will hold elections in even-numbered year or odd-numbered years.  To switch from one cycle to the other, a city must adopt an ordinance indicating that the city will henceforth hold elections in even-numbered years or odd-numbered years, as applicable.”

Thorley also noted that switching from off-year elections to the federal and state election cycle is permissible under state law, and many Nevada cities have done so in the past. Thorley said “making the switch has the effect of extending the terms of office of the incumbent city elected officials. “

In conclusion of the information provided by Thorley, he said  “In a 2005 opinion, the Nevada Attorney General stated that the statute that allows a city to change to the federal and state election cycle does not violate the Nevada Constitution’s prohibition against the legislative creation of an office with a term of more than four years.  Instead, the Attorney General concluded that switching to the federal and state election cycle does not directly extend the terms of office of the incumbents, but rather the incumbents are allowed to hold over until the next general election.”

And while there are several items on the agenda that discuss various items such as taking a portion of the room tax and placing it in the general fund, the municipal court requesting approval on a collection agency to collect on fines and fees ordered by the court, and the need for the city to back pay for the past two years to the city’s paid firefighters in the amount of approximately $15,000, you wonder how is all of this possible when you read City Treasurer Janette Trask’s Treasurer’s Report.

Trask mentions that since her rehire six months ago has been a blur, stating that the audit has been the focus of most of her time. Trask has been working very closely with McKay Hall, accountant for Hinton Burdick.

Trask’s report states that after reviewing the budgeted revenues it appears the revenues will likely come in at approximately $1.9 million, leaving the budget overstated by approximately $200,000, that likely won’t come in Trask said. And, with over $2.1 million budgeted in expenses and at fifty percent of the fiscal year having elapsed, total expenses are at 49.5 percent.

Trask mentioned that if all departments spend their budgets, the general fund would use up all of the beginning fund balance leaving a deficit of approximately $48,000.

Trask also mentioned that the fire department’s budget wasn’t budgeted properly for this fiscal year.  Funds were put into different appropriated funds.  More than $80,000 of their operating budget was put into the Fire Protection Street Improvement Fund when it should have been in the General Fund Fire Department Budget Fund.

So, now the fire department will have to look at ways to cut its budget. Trask mentioned that the general fund balance has been reduced by more than $630,000 in the past three years.

She noted in her report that she has spoke to the council suggesting ways to reduce spending, and with less than six months left in the fiscal years the city council and administration needed to work on ways to have a better budget funds.

And, the final agenda item that Carson requested to be placed on the agenda is an open personnel session of City Administrator Robert Switzer to consider his character, alleged misconduct, professional competence or physical and mental health.

Switzer was hired by the city in 2014. Switzer’s yearly salary according to Transparent Nevada with the last knowing reporting day of 2016 was $113,480.07 that includes benefits.