Budget expands reach into local coffers

Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget not only continues taking the local government money taken by the 2009 Legislature and 26th Special Session, it dips even deeper into their coffers to fill the state's revenue shortfall.

The executive summary to the budget euphemistically says the plan "shifts the funding source for several programs or services from general fund to county reimbursements."

It says those services will continue to be provided by the state, but with county funding. The services on that list are Elder Protective Services; Assistance to the Aged, Blind and Disabled; the Medicaid Waiver; Mental Health Court; inspection and licensing of food providers; Emergency Medical Services licensing and training; child developmental services; child protective services for rural counties and youth parole.

Altogether, those shifts will save the general fund - and impose on the counties - a total of $76.6 million.

On top of that, the state is continuing to take 9 cents worth of property tax revenue from Clark and Washoe County. But, instead of taking the estimated $121 million in revenue to the general fund, the budget sends it directly to the Nevada System of Higher Education. That money is then backed out of the NSHE budget by reducing the state's appropriation.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said the present plan is to dedicate those funds to the universities in those two counties.

Again, the state realizes savings by reducing its appropriation to the university system by that amount.

School districts also get tapped by the plan as the state takes up $425 million excess bond debt payment reserves - the bulk of it from Clark County. Clinger said that means changing the law so that school districts are only required to have six months of reserves to make bond payments instead of a year. He said the state operates on a six-month reserve and has had no problems with its bond rating because of that.

That money reduces the amount of general fund cash the state has to put into the K-12 budgets.

In addition, Sandoval's plan dumps programs and services totaling $40.5 million onto local governments. The list includes child support enforcement, emergency welfare assistance, community juvenile justice programs, county youth camps, child mental health room and board, and medical care for tuberculosis and sexual diseases. The two largest items on the list are the Senior Citizen Property Tax program at $11.4 million and the cost of pre-sentence investigations at $10.6 million for the biennium.

Lawmakers also plan to continue taking the estimated $221.5 million generated by the additional 3 percent room tax in Clark and Washoe counties for another two years. That tax was called for in an initiative petition but was supposed to go to school district supplemental programs beginning this coming budget cycle. Clinger said the state can take the money because the Legislature approved the increase, not the voters.

The budget plan also continues other revenue "diversions" from local governments imposed two years ago including the Indigent Accident Fund which pays counties and hospitals for the cost of treating indigents who suffer catastrophic medical costs - worth about $39.4 million over the biennium.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment