November 20, 2011

The Party Is Over

The painful reality of resource (oil, water, revenue, capital) limits:

Nearly a third of all homes are in foreclosure. The houses that are occupied are worth less than half of what they were two years ago. But people here still focus on what it could have been and maybe, just maybe, what it could still be.

This year, the city was facing a $9 million deficit and the prospect that it might not be able to make payroll. State officials began murmuring that they could move to take over the municipality if it became fiscally insolvent. One official said that unless the city “hit the jackpot,” bankruptcy was imminent. This fall, the city reached a deal with unions to delay cost-of-living raises, averting a crisis for now.

But the future is still grim — the city’s bond rating was downgraded again last month, and officials acknowledge that they could be in the same precarious position next year, when the city faces a $15.5 million budget gap. They hope that a new veterans’ hospital and an outpost of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will help the economy, but they know those additions will not provide the same kind of quick cash that property taxes once did.

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