Las Vegas Sun

August 27, 2015

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County Government:

Health District budget request raising some eyebrows on the Clark County Commission

Among the many public agencies with its hand out looking for county money is the Southern Nevada Health District, which provides such services as STD testing, restaurant inspections and immunizations.

Like other agencies that serve the public, the Health District needs money at a time when less is available even though demands for its services are greater than ever.

With that in mind, Clark County commissioners Tuesday will discuss the Health District’s budget plan for the next fiscal year. The Health District expects to get almost $2 million less from the county than last year, but there still might be resistance from county officials.

The reason: The Health District’s tentative budget for next year includes an increase of about 2.5 percent in salaries and benefits for employees. About 78 percent of the Health District’s budget is for salaries and benefits.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said commissioners will take a hard look at the wage increases.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow when almost everyone else is taking pay cuts,” he said. “It raises a lot of concern.”

Two years ago, the Health District’s board approved wage increases of about 5.5 percent for most of its employees. That increase was guaranteed in a union contract, but some county commissioners were bothered that, during the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the union wasn’t asked for concessions like other public employee unions.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said Monday she hopes the county considers bringing the Health District under the county’s umbrella, similar to departments like Social Service or Business Licensing, so it has more direct control of the district’s budget.

Potentially adding to the district’s budget difficulties in the next year is the fact that it needs a new building, repairs to an old one, or the purchase or lease of an existing one. Its main facility on Shadow Lane was closed in April because of structural problems.

At a Health District board meeting in April, costs to construct a new building were estimated at $60 million; buying a building was estimated at $37.3 million, and repairing the existing building would be $6.7 million.

The 47-year-old main building needs a host of repairs and upgrades and has needed upkeep for years. As far back as 1997, the Health District was told a new fire suppression system had to be installed within five years; one of the repairs listed as currently needed is a new fire suppression system.

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