Reno State of the City Address offers new vision, even during lean fiscal times
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The message of the address was innovation and revitalization, tempered with the reality of lean fiscal times. The address was an overview of city affairs from City Manager Andrew Clinger, punctuated by pre-produced video interviews with Mayor Bob Cashell and members of the City Council.
Clinger opened with good news: property levels have stabilized after five years of decline, and the economy is moving in the right direction.
"Unemployment rates are steadily dropping; building permits are on the rise; our population is growing; and while our region has a long way to go to regain the ground we loss during the recession, local and state economists agree our community has rounded a corner and is on the path to recovery."
Other highlights Clinger touched upon included the streamlining of the business permitting process and a new online system for paying bills and parking tickets.
That was the good news. What's difficult for the City is that the budget remains at 35 million dollars less than what it was 5 years ago.
"Our new normal is going to be a smaller more efficient Reno government."
Clinger says that has to be the case because property tax revenue will remain essentially flat. Residents will see no new taxes in the budget. But there's also hiring freeze, despite the fact that Reno has one of the lowest ratios of local government employees to residents as compared to similar metropolitan areas in the U.S.
Other worries ranged from the city's low reserve fund to a lack of money for long-term retirement health care costs, as well as funding of capital maintenance projects.
The city's new strategic campaign, called "Think Reno," was one of the main talking points of the address. That campaign seeks to improve communication and outreach with residents, provide safe and livable neighborhoods, support new economic development and make city services more efficient. Clinger describes Think Reno part of a larger culture shift that will be a top-to-bottom change.
Cashell echoed that sentiment, saying the same old practices aren't going to cut it anymore.
"We have everything in this city and in this county to succeed . Our community needs to work together and quit bickering."