Carson City pays state assessments despite objections
Carson City has made its first payments to the state to cover assessments ordered by the Legislature and governor despite objections to the decision to shift costs to the local levels for those programs.
City Manager Larry Werner said the city has the revenue because it was able to raise franchise fees on gas and electric services in the capital.
“Since the franchise fees were increased, it seemed problematic not to pay,” he said.
Those programs were among a dozen services the state either dumped on local governments or assessed counties for the cost of providing services in order to balance the state budget without raising taxes.
But Werner said the debate is far from over. He said he and the Board of Supervisors want to know what exactly they are paying for and how the assessments were calculated for different counties.
City Finance Director Nick Providenti said the city is being assessed $94,759 per quarter for the state to handle Child Protective Services, $13,729 per quarter for Youth Parole Services, and $22,020 per quarter for Parole and Probation to do pre-sentence investigations used in sentencing felons.
He said Carson City just paid two quarters’ costs for Child Protective Services and Youth Parole Services and one quarter’s cost for investigations – a total of $238,996. Those invoices cover the entire cost of Child Welfare Services, half the cost of Youth Parole Services and a share of the investigation costs.
Providenti said the city’s electric franchise fee was raised from 3.5 to 4.5 percent and the natural-gas fee from 4.5 percent to the maximum allowable, 5 percent. But he said there’s no guarantee those increases will cover the cost of the programs, since collections have been declining because of the economy.
He noted that that isn’t the total the city will have to pay. The unknown is the cost for providing long-term care for indigents in nursing homes.
The state repealed the law capping county liability for indigent long-term care at 8 cents of each county’s property tax. If costs go above that, the county will have to pick up the difference.
Association of Counties Director Jeff Fontaine estimated that will cost the counties $14.5 million during the biennium. Providenti said Carson City doesn’t know exactly what it will cost because that depends on how many people are in institutional care settings.
Chuck Duarte, head of the state’s Health Care Financing and Policy Division, told the Board of Examiners on Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services is having problems persuading the counties to sign agreements on all the cost shifts ordered by lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Overall, he said, about two-thirds of the contract agreements needed to do that have been signed.
“In some areas, we have a lot of signatures, a lot of compliance, and in other areas we don’t,” he said.
In youth parole, Duarte said, only six counties (including Carson City) have signed on, which, he said, could cause a serious cash flow problem for the Division of Child and Family Services. He said Nye County officials have served notice that they don’t believe the state can assess them for that.
In addition, he said, only three counties have signed agreements to pay developmental services assessments to Mental Health and Disabled Services.