Reno Fire seeks state funding to purchase protective gear
After a lengthy discussion, the Interim Finance Committee postponed a vote on the Reno Fire Department’s request for state money to buy protective vests and other ballistic gear for first responders.
Battalion Chief Seth Williams said under existing rules, first responders to a major terror event or shooting must wait until law enforcement clears the scene before they can enter and begin treating victims. In the case of the Oct. 1, 2017 massacre on the Las Vegas Strip, he said that was more than an hour while victims lay helpless.
Law enforcement agencies can use forfeiture money to purchase that sort of gear but first responders can’t access those funds.
Attorney General Aaron Ford took up the cause on behalf of Reno fire officials, expanding from the $160,000 they are asking to $500,000 from the Wells Fargo mortgage settlement funding, making it into a grants program all local agencies could apply for.
“You find a very receptive audience,” chairman Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, told the battalion chiefs seeking the funding.
But she said granting the money would set a precedent that really requires a more thorough discussion. She said leadership would like to hear from other jurisdictions in the north and rural parts of the state to have a “global discussion about those dollars.”
After she was told the fire department had not specifically proposed that the city of Reno fund purchases of body armor and other gear, Carlton said the precedent was concerning.
“I have concerns about the state being the go-to on things that should be the responsibility of locals,” she said.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, added there should be a discussion about who is eligible to apply because not all first responders are public employees at fire departments around the state.
Sen. Julia Ratti, who served for years on the Sparks City Council, said she has sympathy for the request because local government finances have not recovered from the great recession. She said by the end of 2009, Sparks had cut about 30 percent of its staff.
“It’s well known that local governments are not recovering,” she said. “Their funding mechanism is primarily property taxes is not keeping up so the reality of being able to actually fund what’s on the list is nil.”
Carlton postponed action on the request until IFC’s Dec. 13 meeting.
In addition, the committee approved $900,000 to begin the process of developing a new funding formula for K-12 education.
That proposal in SB5433 was developed by Sens. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, and Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas. Woodhouse said during debate on the bill it’s time to replace the historic Nevada Plan that currently apportions money to the state’s school districts. She said that plan developed in the 1960s no longer recognizes the needs of school districts around the state.
She described the proposal as a “pupil cased” system of awarding funding that weights the needs of different groups of students.
The money will hire three major consultants for the project — West Ed, APA Consultants and Applied Analysis — for a maximum of $200,000 each. Finally it will pay $300,000 to hire a vendor to guide the state and its partners including the school districts through the process.