Current Economic Review_UNR – Download PDFcredit: Reno Gazette Journal
Washoe County commissioners have put the county’s financial house, the regional economy and jobs at the top of their agenda in 2012 even though the county has no direct role in economic development.
The commission put those issues at the top of its list as the region continues to struggle under the weight of stubborn 12 percent unemployment rates, high foreclosures and the collapse of the housing industry.
More so than in the past, economist Brian Bonnenfant said, county officials tried to get their arms around regional economic trends and what they mean in demands for county services during the commission’s annual retreat Thursday.
“Revenues are not going to be there for the next two to three years. They’re really struggling with solutions on how to right the ship,” Bonnenfant said. “When past trends have blown up, it’s hard to project.”
Bonnenfant, project director with the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, presented a mostly dismal picture:
The regional economy has lost 42,000 jobs since December 2006. Only health services and education have grown.
>> The median price of residential properties sold in Washoe County was $135,000 in September, down from about $192,000 in January 2009.
>> Two-thirds of all units sold were short sales or foreclosures.
>> One third of the sales were for cash, meaning investors are snapping up properties and putting them up for rent.
A closer look at numbers
Given the region’s high unemployment and only a very slight drop in Washoe County school enrollment, Bonnefant said he doesn’t believe a big exodus is taking place. The U.S census put the county’s population growth rate from 2009-10 at 1.6 percent, while the state demographer set it at a more anemic 0.2 percent.
Washoe County sales taxes were up 5 percent in the second quarter, largely because of purchases for the Ruby Pipeline in the northern part of the county. Otherwise, he said, it would have been a 2-3 percent increase.
Restaurant and bar sales are the top sales tax generator in Washoe County, edging out automobile sales for several years now. Bonnefant said a joke at the regional studies center was that people not making mortgage payments are spending their money in the bars.
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