Treasurer finds $40 million to help with Nevada's budget crunch

By Geoff Dornan

Appeal Capitol Bureau

Treasurer Kate Marshall presented the governor and his budget staff with a present Tuesday: $40 million in savings gleaned from unclaimed property and several bond accounts they can use to help offset the state's budget shortfall.

Marshall said the $23 million she expects to revert to the general fund from unclaimed property comes despite the fact her office returned four times as much money to its rightful owners this fiscal year as residents got back the year before.

She said that is more than $12 million in claims returned compared to $3 million in fiscal 2007.

The $40 million is in addition to the 4.5 percent budget cuts the governor has asked all his agencies, the Legislature, Supreme Court and constitutional officers to make, she said.

For her office, she said the 4.5 percent reduction comes to $139,396 over the biennium.

"As I indicated to you in our November 5, 2007 meeting, my office had already begun to make preparations to meet or exceed anticipated budget cuts based on the concerns you initially raised in the beginning of this fiscal year," she said in her letter advising the governor of the extra money she and her staff have identified.

In addition to the unclaimed property account, she said staff has identified $7.2 million that can be freed up from the Bond Fund. That is money in excess of what's necessary to make bond payments on two projects: The Southern Nevada women's prison and the Division of Child and Family Services juvenile center in Southern Nevada.

Finally, she said, her office has identified interest earned in the Bond Fund of about $10 million in excess of the amount necessary to repay outstanding bonds.

Marshall said all that money - a total of $40 million - can be reverted to the state's general fund and used to help cover the state's budget shortfall.

As of last week, Director of Administration Andrew Clinger projected the state's revenues will fall $564.7 million short of the amounts projected by the Economic Forum and used to build the biennial budget.

Just over $300 million of that total is being taken in the form of delayed construction and maintenance, one-shot funding and operating budgets. The remainder, about $230 million, will come from the state's Rainy Day Fund.

Marshall said obviously the $40 million won't solve the state's budget problems but that it's certainly more than a drop in the bucket.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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