Small county lobbyist warns of load state dumping on locals
Lobbyists representing Western Nevada’s counties warned Wednesday the state is dumping so many responsibilities on the counties that the state can’t expect them to absorb everything by July 1.
“In a few months period, we had this tsunami of services coming to the rurals,” said Mary Walker, who represents Carson, Douglas, Storey and Lyon counties.
Some of those services the state is moving to county responsibility. For the rest, the state is demanding counties pay the state to provide them.
“I think our problem is, how do we do this?” Walker asked the Senate Finance Committee.
She made the statement during discussion of Senate Bill 480, which pushes responsibility for investigating allegations of neglect and abuse of children to the rural counties.
“We don’t have the skill or expertise to take this on,” Walker said.
Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, agreed saying, “I don’t know if you can do it; certainly not by July 1.”
“I don’t agree with this decision dumping it on the counties,” Leslie said. “But that’s where we are, the governor’s recommended budget.”
The governor submitted an amendment restoring General Fund money totaling $4.7 million to fund those services in rural Nevada. But Leslie said Democrats rejected that if Washoe and Clark counties have to cover those costs, so should rural counties.
Walker said the rural counties will need time to determine whether they can handle those investigations.
That will cost Carson City $764,698, Douglas $586,452, Lyon $792,424 and Storey $46,967 during the coming biennium.
“The problem is timing when we’re trying to take on all the other services at the same time,” Walker said.
Lisa Gianoli representing Washoe County said they too need that flexibility not only for abuse and neglect investigations but to child welfare and child protective services among other programs being pushed down to the counties.
Child Protective Services would be converted to a block grant program instead of budgeted according to caseload. Division Administrator Diane Comeaux said that is a good change for most counties since it will maintain funding from the state. She said under the current budgeting system, reduced costs to the program reduce state funding.
Comeaux said as caseloads decline those counties will free up funding they can use to enhance services in other areas.
“Caseloads are starting to decline so this is the perfect time to start block grant funding,” Comeaux said.
There would be an incentive program for those two counties over and above the block grant.
SB477 requires rural counties to join Washoe and Clark counties in contributing to the cost of child protective services. Lawmakers are also requiring rural counties to join in paying the cost of youth parole, child placement and other so-called “front end” service, which Clark and Washoe have been paying for a decade.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said it is a fairness issue. He asked, what would happen if the counties refuse to send their share to the state? Comeaux said the state would dock the required tax revenue from those counties before the Controller’s Office sends it to them.
Asked what the total cost of the shifts would be to the counties, Gianoli said county officials don’t know yet because, “we don’t even know what it is that’s coming in the package.”