[Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series in which Mesquite Mayor Mark Wier discusses issues facing the City with the Mesquite Citizen Journal.]
He's kept a furious pace over the last year as Mesquite's Mayor, but Mark Wier slowed down for an hour last week to discuss various issues confronting the City with the Mesquite Citizen Journal.
"Transparency," was the one word answer he gave when asked what he thought his greatest accomplishment has been over the last year. "Opening up our government so the regular person can see what's going on at the City level is the most important thing we've done," Wier added. "It will probably be the most important thing we'll ever do. Keeping it open, keeping it honest, that's democracy."
Allowing more public discussions of issues and a more transparent government was a campaign pledge Mayor Wier made during his run for office.
"I really wanted to get some more stuff done regarding zoning issues for people along Riverside Road," he said when asked what his biggest disappointment was during his first year in office. He explained that people who own homes in commercially zoned areas have difficulty with insurance and loan issues. "If anything happens to their homes, they can't get a loan to rebuild if they have a fire. It's really a mess and it's really unfair."
Wier added that City Staff is working on the issue but didn't have a timeline for resolving the situation.
Wier entered office with an Interim City Manager in place. He and the City Council spent several months early on rewriting and replacing City Ordinances describing the duties and responsibilities of the City Manager before they began the process of hiring a permanent one. It took almost one year to complete the ordeal and hire a new Manager, Andy Barton.
Halfway through Wier's first year in office, the City Finance Director left and was replaced with Debbie Cardenas, who came into office only about six weeks before budget hearings began for the new fiscal year.
Internal Services Director and Human Resources Manager Mike Callahan recently announced he was leaving his position at the end of July.
"I feel really good about the new City Manager and new City Finance Director," Wier commented. He added that the new people have a lot of experience "and are very good at what they do. We need that. They are hired to let me and the Council know about certain policies. They don't make the policy. Council makes policy. They are there to give us the advice we need."
He explained that, as Mayor, he's not directly responsible for hiring Staff members such as Callahan's replacement if it comes to that. "We, the Council and I, hire and fire the City Manager, the City Attorney, the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, City Treasurer and City Clerk. Those are the positions that the Mayor and Council are directly responsible for. We watch the money and the salaries on the other positions, we control the budget."
Overall City staffing levels have fallen by 31 positions over the last two years. Citing public safety as one of the main responsibilities of the City, Wier said that "we need to make sure we have enough police officers and fire fighters on staff to take care of the City." When asked if he thought Mesquite had enough people on staff in those two areas, he replied, "they are stretched to the limit. But most businesses are. If you go into the private sector, most businesses have added a lot of work onto their [current] employees.
"We have to reflect more of what's going on in the private sector. We don't relish doing that. But it's something that needs to be done."
Citing continuing concerns about the economy, Wier remarked that, "we can't gauge where that's going to be. We need to continue taking a cautious approach for the next year, maybe two years."
He added "I think we're doing a great job with what we have at City Hall."
The only employee group that did not receive a pay raise at the beginning of the FY 2012-13 were Management and Officer appointees. Last year this group took a five percent pay reduction, much of it by eliminating a $400 a month car allowance that most of them received.
"At this point, no," Wier replied when asked if the group would receive any pay raises or adjustments. "They are staying at the same levels they were at. There's really not anything budgeted for increases. There have been some talks and discussion about giving them a 2.5 percent raise but those are decisions that Council has to make."
"There is no leeway in the budget [for the raises]. Our budget is as tight as it can get," Wier continued. "We have some reserves so we are safe. We're going to maintain that very conservative approach for awhile."
took office in July 2011 the City was facing a $2 million deficit in its budget. This year he and the Council presented a balanced budget plan going into FY2012-13.
"You have to say a lot about the Staff," he remarked about the difference. "They understand that Council and myself have been very vocal about being conservative and careful. They cut $1.9 million off the budgets. Staff does a great job for the City and that shows. They are willing to go back to their budgets and look for areas where they can trim. My hat is off to them."
"The residents obviously were not very happy about a $2 million deficit. Staff knew that. They stepped up and cut their spending during the year. I think we're doing a good job.
Consolidated Tax Funding
The consolidated tax funding, best known as C-Tax, that the City receives from the State makes up about 44 percent of the annual budget. It's comprised of sales tax, and taxes on liquor, cigarettes, real estate property transfers, and government services.Earlier in the year, Nevada State Marilyn Kirkpatrick appeared before the Mesquite City Council and requested their input into re-working the complicated formulas used to disperse the funds to cities throughout the state.
"We've been working with the other cities to try and find a way to balance this out. Our new Finance Director [Debbie Cardenas] is on top of it. She's been in meetings on a monthly basis. We're trying to come up with a way to adjust the formula so that it's not so much up and down," Wier explained.
As he continued his explanation of the issue, he said, "it's based on your population. You get a certain amount to begin with. Then whatever else is there, based on your population, it's spread to those who grow. What happens when nobody grows?"
As a way to solve that problem, Wier explained that one suggestion was to reduce the "extra" amount and rely more on actual population counts. "We're trying to find a way to get out of the roller-coaster ride that is C-Tax. Is there a way for zero-growth to be held harmless?"
Because the C-Tax is based on population counts, the discussion led into how the State Demographer develops Mesquite's population. "That's even more trying than the C-Tax for the City of Mesquite. Population is the basis for C-Tax," Wier explained.
"We have to do our counts in July. Our roads are impacted by people that don't live here all the time. Yet, there's no compensation for that through the C-Tax. We have about 3,00 to 5,000 people less in July," than the rest of the year, he continued.
"They are here for six months out of the year. But their house is still there," when they aren't. "We still have to protect that home. We still have to fix that street. We still have the infrastructure. Everything that goes into owning a home or keeping a nice community, we still have to pay for. Yet we're not getting any compensation for it."
"The big question for us is going to be the State demographer and the population counts, and how we get to that. Right now we're working with the Governor's office and the Department of Taxation to find a way to compromise and possibly change some State legislation so those things can be addressed," Wier explained.
"The long term fix," to the C-Tax issue, "is going to be the population issue." Wier added that Mesquite is working with other Nevada cities to build a model that may help create better ways to count populations and distribute taxes.
He noted that the State Demographer lists Mesquite's population at approximately 17,000 people while the U.S. Census Bureau counts about 15,000 people. "The State Demographer is how we're going to get our C-Tax," Wier remarked.
"Right now, I believe the amount we're going to lose in C-Tax based on the original formula is about $17,000 next year."
Wier went on to explain an agreement that Mesquite had worked out with other cities in Clark County to more evenly distribute the tax dollars among themselves. Based on the formula, when Mesquite was continuing to grow while other cities were stalling out, "we were in line to get $15 to $20 million dollars. They would have fought us in court had we decided to take that. It would have taken a lot of our negotiating abilities away from us in the future. We worked out a deal that was more equitable so that when you're down it's not killing you. When you're up, and you're the only one up, you're not getting everything. That's not fair."
"The good news is that all the cities, all the counties, are coming to the table and talking. We'll find a compromise that's best for everybody," Wier concluded.
Coming up in future articles, Wier discusses his ideas for restructuring impact fees, business licensing, renovating the downtown corridor, the proposed Indoor Events Complex, economic development, and, lastly, the proposed Gold Butte National Conservation Area.
Posted Date: 07/10/2012 Mark, I must congratulate our newly elected Councilmen and Mayor, you have indeed fulfilled your commitments to eliminated most of the problems facing the City. Your commitment of austerity for the City is very wise. Your attention to relieve the blighted Downtown part of our City is well justified.
However, the lingering Events Center/Mesquite Indoor Soccer Center cannot be justified and should be deal with forthwith. It is just illogical to even consider another High Risk venture such as this in view of all the reasons for voting it out and no reasons for approving it since it will not result in only miniscule returns for the City.
Again, thank you and the New City councilmen for bringing some pride back to our City.
I would be derelict if I did not cite the many years I have depended on the Mesquite City Staff to aid, assist and furnish advise to me in my many endeavors most recently at the Mesquite Boxing Club, The Veterans Center, the Community gardens, the now in process of removing of the old boarded up Home on Sandhill. I take sustenance from what you do to improve our City.
By: Don Muse
Posted Date: 07/10/2012 I applaud the mayor (and council) for their openness and transparency. When Mayor Wier came into office it was like a whole new city had arrived and everyone I talked to is pleased with the change. The city is more positive, more hopeful. Some of these problems were here before the mayor so it may take so time to work out. Everyone says he is doing a great job. By: Bill
Posted Date: 07/10/2012 YEA,Mayor Weir and Council. You are doing a great job for the citizens of Mesquite. I appreciate your time and the energy you give By: Donna
Posted Date: 07/10/2012 You did what you said and kept the faith. Congratulations great job to you and also the new council. We're all proud of you. By: Mike Young
Posted Date: 07/10/2012 Keep it up, mayor. Politics is no fun if politicians are always trying to hide things. We love you. By: Larry
Posted Date: 07/10/2012 No July 10th City Council meeting shown on Baja channel 12. Why does this occur so frequently, and why is this incompetence apparently acceptable to the mayor, council, and city staff? By: -
Posted Date: 07/10/2012 I join with the others, I think Mayor Wier gets a pat on the back. It's a tough job but he is doing good. By: Janice
Posted Date: 07/11/2012 By:-,
How would we as council know if you are getting a broadcast signal? We do not have a TV in front of us, Sitting up on the dias does not give us mind reading capacity, By: Al Litman