Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

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County projects $66 million surplus, but most already spoken for

After years of drowning in red ink, Clark County has a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that projects a $66 million surplus, although needs at its jail, hospital and police department will eat up nearly all of it.

County commissioners got their first look today at the proposed $1.1 billion general fund budget for fiscal year 2015, which starts July 1.

Improvements in the broader economy translated into a $21.6 million gain for the county’s property and consolidated tax revenue. Coupled with benefits savings and changes to how the county pays for indigent care, next year’s budget is expected to have a surplus of about $66 million.

The county, however, won’t hang onto much of that excess after it doles out increases in funding to several entities it oversees.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is seeking to increase its budget by about $25 million next year to a total of $511 million. The county splits responsibility for the police department’s budget with Las Vegas and will be responsible for $16.9 million of the increase.

The county’s overcrowded jail, meanwhile, faces a $39.4 million budget shortfall. The county plans to chip in an additional $16.5 million from its general fund, covering the remaining deficit with reserves.

University Medical Center, grappling with changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act and a changing payer mix, is in perhaps the worst shape of the three agencies that today requested additional funding from the commission.

The hospital is looking for a $30 million increase in the annual subsidy it receives from the county to cover operations. That would bring the county’s total contribution to $171 million, an amount County Manager Don Burnette said is not sustainable beyond next year.

Altogether, the increased contributions to the jail, hospital and police department will leave the county with just an additional $2.3 million next year for its own staffing and capital needs.

Burnette said the leftover funding is “woefully inadequate” to cover even the county’s capital needs, estimated at about $70 million per year.

The county must submit it’s tentative budget to the state by April 15.

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