Passing the (1.3 million) bucks to counties |

Passing the (1.3 million) bucks to counties

County officials turned out on Thursday to protest legislation that would hit them with at least $1.3 million a year in costs to care for mentally incompetent offenders housed at Lakes Crossing.

Lakes is the state’s high security facility for the mentally incompetent facing criminal charges. Director Elizabeth Neighbors told the Senate Finance Committee the costs would only involve long term commitments of those facing serious felonies. At present, she said, that’s just 10 people.

But she said the cost of caring for them averages about $163,000 a year each.

Right now, the state bears those costs but SB487 would require counties to pay them.

Jeff Fontaine, head of the Nevada Association of Counties, was joined by Wahoe and Clark County spokesmen who also said it’s just another unfunded mandate on top of the nearly $100 million in costs shifted to the local governments in 2011 because of the recession.

He said the counties have done their best to absorb that impact but this change “we believe is just too much.”

“This is a large impact to counties and affects their ability to provide services,” he told the committee.

Neighbors and State Health Officer Tracey Green said those patients are sent to Lakes Crossing by county district judges. But Fontaine said those are not county district courts, they are state district courts.

Told the 10 inmates are form Washoe, Clark and Churchill counties, Finance Chairman Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said that could be a problem: “Did anyone talk to Churchill County about whether they can absorb $163,000 to house this individual?”

Neighbors and Green said no.

Fontaine said that cost would have “a significant impact” on Churchill County.

Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, agreed with Fontaine this cost is the state’s responsibility, not the counties.

He said if put to a vote, he would oppose shifting those costs to the counties.

The committee took no action on the bill.