State contingency fund down to $3.3 million

Almost entirely because of rising prison medical costs, the Board of Examiners had to approve expenditures Tuesday that take the state’s unreserved contingency fund down to just $3.3 million.

Director of Administration Julia Teska said that’s without serious wildfire costs this year.

Director of Corrections Greg Cox told the board the percentage of inmates aged 55 and up is growing by more than a percent a year. Those inmates, many with chronic medical conditions, now make up 11.79 percent of the roughly 12,000 in Nevada’s prison system and Cox said the numbers will continue to rise.

“Guess what, if you get life in prison, it’s life in prison,” he said after the meeting.

His financial officer Scott Sisco said another contributing factor is Medicaid coverage for inmates is growing more slowly than anticipated when the budget was built. He said over time, that will change but for now, it’s causing shortfalls.

The board approved adding $1,030,397 to the corrections budget to cover those projected costs. The other amount approved was a $48,000 addition to the Department of Agriculture budget to the Predatory Animal/Rodent Control Fund.

“These are things that are not within our control,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval.

In other business, Steve Hill, head of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, received $1.25 million from the contingency fund to continue expansion of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program.

Nevada is one of the states designated as a testing ground for UAVs, a designation eventually expected to bring an economic boon as companies expand development and testing of drones for a wide variety of public and commercial missions.

While Hill said the program has made a lot of progress, things haven’t moved as quickly as he would like because “the FAA is all about safety.”

He said there are several things going on including looking at flight testing some of the small drones indoors in stadiums and convention centers around the state. That doesn’t require FAA approval because the drones would be flying in enclosed areas below the 400 foot elevation level.

The money comes form a $4 million pot set aside specifically for the UAV program by lawmakers and the governor. Hill originally drew $1.5 million so this withdrawal leaves about $1.25 million in the fund.


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