List of budget corrections reaches 70 with biggest additions for public schools | NevadaAppeal.com
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List of budget corrections reaches 70 with biggest additions for public schools

The list of budget corrections submitted to the Nevada Legislature has grown to 70 and will cost the state millions of dollars to fix.

The biggest hits are because of omissions in the distributive school account – the multi-billion dollar budget that funds public schools in the state. Monday’s list includes $10.43 million to provide funding for the 1/4 percent increase in the Public Employee Retirement System rate that must be paid on behalf of all teachers and other school employees.

That, like the $6.94 million that will have to be added for inflation in electric and natural gas rates, was overlooked when the budget was originally built.

The biggest single increase in general-fund spending, however, is the $23.5 million appropriation to extend the life of the Millennium Scholarship program. That program was funded by tobacco settlement money but has become a victim of its own success with thousands more Nevada teens using it to attend college than originally projected.

It will cost another $4.5 million from the state treasury over the biennium to increase the Medicaid rate paid for personal assistant services from $17 to $18.50 an hour.

And it will take just under $1 million a year to add 18 correctional officers at High Desert State Prison. Those positions were previously funded by contracts with Washington and Wyoming but those inmates have been sent home because Nevada needs the prison beds – which means Nevada must pick up the guard salaries.

There are dozens of smaller adjustments – both up and down – on the list.

Fortunately for the state and lawmakers, there is one huge reduction in expected costs. The Public Employees Benefit Program revised its projected claims expenditures down sharply after the governor’s proposed budget was submitted to the Legislature. That will save a total of $43.8 million in general-fund dollars between state and school district employees.

Because of that, the 70 adjustments come to just $9.79 million over the biennium.

But analysts have advised the lawmakers there are more adjustments coming. They were told last week the state may have to add more than $40 million to the budget to cover costs of the new federal Medicaid Drug Prescription Plan.

When federal officials made projections last summer, director Mike Willden said they estimated Nevada’s Medicaid program would save $17.8 million over the biennium as those eligible moved to Medicare and those estimates were used to build the budget. Willden said Medicaid has since said Nevada will save only about $3 million for the biennium.

“We’re looking at a $15 million hole (in the budget),” he said.

In addition, differences in the drugs Medicaid and Medicare cover and in copays could add more than $28 million to the state’s costs – a total of more than $40 million.

Deputy Budget Director Andrew Clinger told members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee Monday staff is still working on the Medicaid budget numbers.

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