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Elko City Council OKs cost-of-living pay increase

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Elko city budget

ELKO – City employees will see a 3% cost-of-living adjustment in the 2021-2022 fiscal year rather than the expected 2% originally budgeted, and Elko City Council has agreed to also allow two-step pay increases for “exemplary” employees.

The city has more money than anticipated after tightening the hatches during the pandemic and receiving federal funds, so the final budget additionally will include a $40,000 donation to the Silver State Stampede and money for extra street projects and more.

The Social Security Administration’s estimated cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) had been lower in January, at 1.7%, but is now at 4.4%.

“I don’t think anyone in this room is surprised by that,” Financial Services Director Jan Baum said at the Tuesday council meeting at city hall.

She said going up to 3% on the COLA for employees who are not in unions would cost the city roughly $33,500 and the two-step pay increase for non-union workers could add up to $62,500. The city has 13 pay steps and once an employee reaches the 13th step, they cannot go higher but can get COLA pay.

City Manager Curtis Calder said the budget was in good shape to allow for the two-step pay hikes for “folks who really knocked it out of the park” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I support this. I know how hard staff has worked,” said Mayor Reece Keener, who asked that the step raises be for “exemplary performance” and that department heads run their choices for the pay hikes by Calder for “an extra layer of accountability.”

Councilman Clair Morris said he felt the two-step increase is “very much justified,” especially since employees did not receive a COLA increase last year. Councilwoman Mandy Simons agreed. Councilmen Chip Stone and Bill Hance were absent.

Inflation is getting the better of the stock market as prices seemingly continue to rise. MJP Wealth Advisors President Brian Vendig says the stock market has it wrong.

The council’s decisions to augment the budget came after a presentation by the Silver State Stampede’s first vice president, Alkie Mariluch, who reported the 2020 rodeo’s expenses totaled $167,746 and revenue $122,630, or roughly $47,000 short.

“That’s kind of where the rubber meets the road for us,” he said, with the board relying on attendance and concessions to bring in revenue.

Mariluch said last’s years coverage by the Cowboy Channel should boost the rodeo’s attendance and be a draw for the top competitors.

Silver State Stampede was held in 2020 despite the pandemic, and that meant the best contestants came to Elko because few rodeos were held across the country. There were 536 contestants at the 2020 rodeo, he said.

The Silver State Stampede that began in 1912 and is run by volunteers will be held July 9, 10 and 11 this year at the Elko County Fairgrounds.

The council agreed to augment the budget by $40,000 for the donation to the Stampede. The Stampede did not receive any city money last year, Calder said.

Other budget changes for donations included adding $10,000 for the Elko Boys and Girls Club, a $5,000 donation to the Elko County Art Club, $5,000 for the Arts & Culture Festival, and $60,000 for sidewalks for the Child Advocacy Center but subtracting a $20,000 contribution to the Elko Area Transit Authority because federal funding covers needs.

Community service donations with the changes except the last-minute money for the Boys and Girls Club for the 2021-2022 fiscal year total $233,500, according to the final budget Baum presented to the council.

The final 2021-2022 budget for all the funds except the enterprise funds shows a beginning fund balance of $21.8 million, resources of $31.51 million, expenditures of $36.27 million and an ending fund balance of $16.69 million after transfers in and out.

The general fund has a beginning fund balance of $11.8 million before $3.9 million in transfers, revenues of $23.11 million and expenses of $24.44 million for an ending fund balance of $5.13 million.

Baum said the city received “pretty good revenue in room taxes,” and Baum said she had adjusted the tentative final budget to reflect the higher revenue from the 14% lodging tax.

In an example chart for three months that Baum provided on Wednesday, the February through April fiscal year room tax revenue totaled $707,616 in 2019, dropped to $505,720 in 2020, but rebounded to $722,743 in 2021.

The figures show “the sharp decline from the COVID shutdown,” she said, and the increase as COVID-19 restrictions eased.

Baum said for the 2021-2022 draft budget the city estimated room tax revenue to take longer to recover, budgeting roughly 16% lower than for the 2018-2019 room tax revenues. However, based on the rebound in March and April, room tax revenue was readjusted for the final budget to be much closer to the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Room tax revenue for the 2018-2019 fiscal year was $3.9 million, and the city has now budgeted $3.8 million for the upcoming 2021-2022 fiscal year.

“We should accomplish this if COVID restrictions are not necessary again this fiscal year,” Baum said.

Along with room taxes, the city also benefitted from federal CARES Act funding totaling $3.7 million and anticipates $18.3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. Baum said, however, that the city has not yet received state guidance on how the rescue plan money will be distributed, so those dollars are not in the new budget.

The final general fund includes $100,000 for a community sidewalk co-op program, and the recreation fund is receiving $300,000 for a sports complex project. The facility fund is adding $18,000 for pool locker room stall doors.

The final budget also moves $1 million from the general fund to capital construction for a $550,000 Veterans of Foreign Wars sidewalk project, $200,000 to a Jennings Way sidewalk project and $250,000 for Manzanita paving.

Baum said the airport fund was updated to reflect flights now at 100% capacity and that Hertz rental car company was coming back to Elko Regional Airport.

In addition, budget changes include the addition of a $100,000 donation from Nevada Gold Mines, a $50,000 private donation and another $50,000 pending donation for the purchase of a $200,000 simulator for the Elko Police Department.

The council also voted to spend $458,468 for a new 2021 vacuum truck for the water and sewer department out of the current fiscal year budget that ends June 30. A 2022 truck that would be a year out for delivery would cost roughly $550,000, according to Dale Johnson, the city’s utilities director.

The new truck will be purchased under the Sourcewell Contract, rather than the city having to seek bids to replace the frontline truck that is 17 years old.

The final budget will be submitted to the state after all the changes are incorporated.


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