Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2017

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State budget, more than 230 bills take effect today

A state budget and more than 230 bills passed by the 2011 Legislature take effect today, as the government’s fiscal year begins.

The effects will be far-reaching, as state agencies get their first infusion of the $3.1 billion annual budget.

State and university workers will be paid less. Counties will begin to shoulder the cost of programs that the state had funded in the past.

Consumers will pay a $3 transaction fee for registering their vehicles using a kiosk instead of going to a DMV office.

Military personnel deployed in a combat or combat supporting position won’t be penalized if they don’t register their vehicles on time. Previously, a late fee of $6 was imposed on a motorist for each month or part of a month their registration was delinquent.

Tuition and other fees will rise 13 percent for Nevada System of Higher Education students.

Businesses and consumers who receive permission to pay their taxes late will still have to pay interest to the state. But the interest rate is reduced from 1 percent to 0.75 percent a month.

The state’s $3.1 billion operating budget, of which 53 percent goes to education, from kindergarten through the university system, takes effect.

In addition to the painful process of passing a budget, lawmakers also focused on improving the performance of Nevada’s public schools.

Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public instruction, said 40 education bills become effective today, the same number as the 2009 Legislature. Many deal with teacher licensing and authorize the districts to set up a performance-based payment plan to reward good teachers.

Outside of licensing and accountability, school districts facing financial troubles may apply to the state for a waiver of the 180-day school year. The law allows the schools to be closed for five days because of financial circumstances.

There will be additional ways for a student to gain a credit for a subject while not attending class. A school principal and the teacher may develop a proficiency test. At present the student can skip the class and get the credit by just passing a state test.

A high school student in the 10th grade who cannot pass the high school proficiency test in science and math may be given an extra year to take the exam again.

Greater attention will be given to the prevention and treatment of students who suffer head injuries during sports programs or other activities. Students who suffer a head injury must be immediately removed and cannot return to play until the parent presents a physician’s statement that the student is medically cleared.

Aside from education, state workers and some university personnel will get hit with a 2.5 percent pay cut plus the requirement of taking six unpaid furlough days each year for a total pay reduction of 4.8 percent. There will be a freeze on longevity pay and other benefits.

The Legislature balanced the budget by pushing more program expenses onto counties. Jeff Fontaine, director of the Nevada Association of Counties, estimated the counties will have to pick up $21 million in health and welfare program costs this fiscal year. The counties will also lose $19.6 million as the state dips into the indigent accident fund of the counties. And counties will have to pay an estimated $3.5 million to cover part of the state’s cost for presentencing investigations for those convicted of crimes.

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