Friday, April 24, 2009 | 1:55 p.m.
CARSON CITY – A legislative subcommittee has left Clark County hanging on whether it will have to lay off 32 investigators who look into child abuse cases.
The subcommittee, examining the state’s welfare budget, could not make up its mind on the recommendation of Gov. Jim Gibbons to cut $4.6 million over the next two years in aid to the Clark County Social Services Agency.
The governor’s recommendation also takes away $2.6 million from Washoe County over the next two years.
Committee members supported the concept of restoring the cuts. But Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the subcommittee, could not get the subcommittee to come to a vote.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, did not support providing additional state money.
"There is already too big a hole," Buckley said. She suggested some of the federal funds in the state's welfare budget might be shifted around.
Raggio said it would "not be wise" to add the $7.2 million in state funds to the budget to send to Clark and Washoe counties.
After the hearing, Tom Morton, director of the Clark County Family Services Division, said the failure to get the money would eliminate one-third of his investigative staff.
He said Nevada has the nation's second-highest rate of children being removed from their parents after a family disturbance.
“These funds have been and remain an essential basis for the provision of an adequate child protective services response to reports of child abuse and neglect,” he said.
Coffin said the emergency response teams of investigators in Clark County help protect children and it “keeps the child from being institutionalized” in state facilities.
Buckley agreed but she was unwilling, at this point, to place more state money into the aid to the two counties.