NACO: Involve counties in state budget solutions |

NACO: Involve counties in state budget solutions

by Sandi Hoover

Local governments need to keep an eye on costs for services that could be shifted from state to local responsibility when the Legislature convenes next month, leaders in Carson City and Douglas County were told on Thursday.

Nevada Association of Counties Executive Director Jeff Fontaine said Nevada has the largest budget deficit percentage in the nation right now at 54 percent, which translates to a deficit of between $1.1 billion and $2.7 billion.

He said the state has shifted $283 million from counties since July 2008, and “we’re concerned about continued diversions and cost shifts.”

Fontaine said NACO will be particularly watching for shifts in protective services for seniors and children, and indigent care.

“Our message is that counties can’t afford to take on these costs,” Fontaine said.

Supervisor Shelly Aldean said accepting services was not specifically her objection.

“My only objection is that (these mandates will be) devoid of funding for services,” she said.

Fontaine said no one will know for sure what direction the state might go, however, until after the governor’s State of the State speech Monday.

“Our position is that we don’t oppose them, it’s just that locals need a say and the ability to negotiate,” he said.

Another objective for NACO will be to address home rule.

“We want to say that unless expressly prohibited, governments should be able to make their own decisions on functional matters which will result in their being able to be more efficient,” he said.

Mayor Bob Crowell said he’d like lawmakers to understand that the city needs to be able to make some of those decisions.

“We shouldn’t have to go to the Legislature to tell us what hours to keep our offices open,” he said.

“We’d also like them to know that we are the state capital, and we want to be a part of the solution. We’re here to help balance the budget and get people employed,” Crowell said.

Crowell also said he’d like legislators to be aware of how aggressive Carson City and its surrounding counties have been in looking for ways to cooperate regionally and reduce tax burdens.

This might be a template for other counties looking for cooperative ways to save money, he said.

Fontaine said NACO is also working on a number of other initiatives including access to and multiple uses for public lands.

Supervisor John McKenna told Fontaine he was concerned about the prison closures, museums and the freeway.

Fontaine said that NACO has beaten back closing museums in the past, and that the Legislature hasn’t agreed to close the prison in the past, either. Regarding the freeway, he said, “there certainly are lots of advocates for construction spending.”