Gov. Gibbons to meet with local governments | NevadaAppeal.com
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Gov. Gibbons to meet with local governments

SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer

Local government leaders will have a chance Monday to spout off about pending state budget cuts and the implications for their own imploding coffers.

Gov. Jim Gibbons plans to hold a statewide videoconference with mayors and county commission chairmen to hear their concerns and suggestions.

“It’s a chance to talk with them about what their needs are and see if they have ideas,” Robin Reedy, Gibbons’ chief of staff, said Friday.

Local governments have no shortage of needs.

Jeff Fontaine, executive director of the Nevada Association of Counties, said that since 2008, counties have taken a $235 million hit when some property tax revenue that had gone to counties was diverted to help balance the state budget.

“Counties have a statutory responsibility to provide for indigent services,” Fontaine said. “For people who are relying on state services, if those services are cut or eliminated, those people are going to end up being the responsibility of the counties in many cases.

“That’s nothing more than a cost shift,” he said.

Reedy said one suggestion that has come up is allowing local governments to dip into mandated reserve accounts to help in the short term.

“We want to see if there’s any other suggestions like that we can debate,” she said.

New revenue estimates project that Nevada is facing a $1 billion shortfall for the rest of the biennium that ends June 30, 2011. Gibbons plans to address the financial crisis in a televised speech Feb. 8 and call a special session of the Legislature.

Clark County, the state’s most populous because it’s home to Las Vegas, is grappling with a $126 million shortfall for 2010-2011 fiscal year. The city of Las Vegas has projected a $400 million deficit over the next five years.

Washoe County in northern Nevada is trying to cut $25 million, while the city of Reno is facing a $15.2 million budget hole.

Local governments, Fontaine said, “cannot afford to have any more revenue diverted to the state.”

“Obviously we would really like to see these revenues restored to the counties, and have counties be given more authority to develop their own economies,” Fontaine said.

“It’s really difficult times,” he said. “We do appreciate the governor and his staff having this meeting. It’s a good step and we need to be talking.”