Las Vegas proposes $688M budget for 2023

Las Vegas City Manager Jorge Cervantes speaks during a Las Vegas City Council meeting in Las Ve ...

Las Vegas city officials are projecting general fund revenues to climb to roughly $697 million in a tentative fiscal year 2023 budget presented Wednesday that adds 107 new positions and sets aside money for council priorities such as improving public safety and homeless services.

The estimated 1.5 percent growth over the current fiscal year illustrates the city’s continued financial recovery from the pandemic behind a strong performance from so-called consolidated tax, which is mostly retail sales tax and accounts for 55 percent of all general fund revenues.

The city expects to collect $385 million in consolidated tax for the fiscal year beginning July 1, continuing a yearslong trend of growth, except for a slight dip in 2020, which turned out to be less severe than officials once feared.

“The good news is we’ve pretty much recovered (from the pandemic) in two years, well almost three years, (while) it took 10 years (to recover) the last time we had a recession,” Finance Director Susan Heltsley told city lawmakers.

City officials said the financial decline two years ago was not as bad as expected because of an influx of federal stimulus money and the economy’s reopening from a shutdown meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

With a proposed $688 million general fund spending plan for fiscal year 2023, including an $8.5 million surplus, the city also believes it has restored services to pre-pandemic levels.

“We probably have all the service we provided previously with some exceptions,” City Manager Jorge Cervantes said, noting that some positions were deemed no longer necessary.

The city is expected to have 2,927 regular employees — excluding hourly and temporary workers — in fiscal year 2023, compared with 2,858 this fiscal year, according to the budget presentation.

Emphasis on public safety

The proposed budget, which could change before it’s adopted by June 1, adds 42 public safety positions and restores 10 that were previously frozen, with use of various funding sources including the general fund, according to Heltsley. Twenty jobs will support a planned new fire station in far northwest Las Vegas.

The city, which shares funding obligations with Clark County for the Metropolitan Police Department (the county pays a larger share), will also help Metro restore 45 civilian positions to bring the department closer to pre-pandemic levels, Heltsley said.

While city officials said the budget reflected a conservative approach that routinely leads the city to outperform revenue projections, Councilman Cedric Crear expressed concern about forecasts in future years.

“I think that the positions that we’re bringing on and bringing back are needed, but it makes it tough when you look at the long-term effect of that,” he said.

Nearly five dozen projects

Beyond public safety, the budget also responds to the City Council’s two other core priorities: economic diversification and health and wellness, according to Chief Financial Officer Gary Ameling.

The budget would add money for a new charter school, mobile pre-kindergarten facility staffing and a health center in the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, Ameling said.

Meanwhile, 57 new projects worth $227 million are planned with capital fund and other dollars in the upcoming fiscal year, according to Mike Janssen, the city’s executive director of infrastructure.

The projects include a $20 million parking garage in the Arts District and $11 million for rehabilitation of city parks and facilities.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.