State of Nevada agency budgets seek elimination of state worker furloughs

If the governor agrees, the coming biennium will see the end of the unpaid furlough days state workers have suffered for the past five years. In addition, all state employees, not at top scale, would get their annual step increases in pay in 2016 and 2017.

Those proposals are contained in the 6,500-page agency requests budget released by the Nevada Budget Division this past week.

The agency requests are just that — the additions state agencies believe they need — or want — to do their jobs.

In most cases — with the exception of pure caseload increases in mandated programs like Medicaid — it’s up to Gov. Brian Sandoval whether or not those requests will be included in the budget he will unveil in his January State of the State address and submit to the 2015 Legislature.

Add all the agency requests together, the budget would require $7.7 billion in General Fund spending — an increase of more than $1 billion over the current budget — and a total two-year budget when federal and other funding is included of $23.2 billion.

Because the step increases and elimination of furloughs were itemized in each of the more than 200 agency budget proposals, it wasn’t possible to add up the total cost of those additions. Each annual step increase for employees is worth about 4.6 percent more pay.

Another major initiative contained in the Agency Requests budget is the expansion of full-day Kindergarten to all Nevada schools including Charter Schools. That will raise the cost of the program from the current $77 million to about $120 million for the coming two years.

The Department of Education budget also projects a 1.25 percent increase in student enrollment statewide. While most of that is in Clark County, even Carson City is expecting a slight increase in the number of students after nearly a decade of decline.

The lion’s share of the overall increase sought by agencies is in the Health and Human Services Department — nearly all driven by caseload increases and primarily Medicaid. If the governor agrees, the HHS General Fund budget would rise by more than $500 million, nearly $400 million of it in Medicaid which is projected to have nearly 555,000 recipients at the end of the coming two-year budget cycle. With the increases in federal funding, that wold put the total HHS budget over the $10 billion mark for the coming biennium.

Medicaid isn’t alone in seeking caseload-based increases in HHS. Desert Regional Center, Sierra Regional Center Lakes Crossing, Child and Adolescent Service, rural Clinics, Early Intervention and other programs are all asking multi-million dollar increases.

The HHS increases also include a total of nearly $25 million to operate the Stein mental patient hospital under reconstruction in Southern Nevada.

The total funding for the Department of Corrections would increase $43.7 million to $590 million, nearly $531 million of it General Fund cash. The primary driver behind the increase was the change in the department’s shift relief factor — the number of correctional officers on duty at any one time — recommended by an interim study committee. That change will require the addition of about 100 more prison staff.

The university system has asked for a total of $1.7 billion, $1.16 billion of it in state funding. That is more than 17 percent higher than current state funding for the system.

The biggest new item on that list is the proposed Southern Nevada medical school at $26.6 million over the biennium. Add to that the expansion of the graduate medical program — added residency programs for graduating medical students — at $9.8 million.

The requested budget is littered with requests for new computer systems, many of them multi-million dollar projects, and additional IT personnel. Much of that is due to pent-up need caused by the fact no new computer systems were approved during the six-plus years of the recession.

The biggest is replacement of the aging Department of Motor Vehicles Genesis computer system. DMV is asking for a total of $75 million for that project.

Also on the list and more likely to get funding this coming cycle is the next step in the Gaming Control Board’s new computer system. The existing system is so old it’s based on Cobol, a computer language rarely used anywhere else. Among the other agencies asking for new computer systems are the secretary of state’s office and the criminal history repository.


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