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August 22, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

A failure to collect

Nevada passes on opportunity to take federal aid to help the state

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In an op-ed piece in the Sun last week, John Hudak proclaimed that Nevada is in a position to “reap an embarrassment of riches” from Washington.

Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said the stars were aligned for Nevada: It’s a swing state, it has political clout (native son Harry Reid is the Senate majority leader) and it has many needs that would fit federal grant programs.

But the state has failed to take advantage of the situation.

According to the Council for State Governments, Nevada ranked dead last for the amount of federal grant money it received per-capita in fiscal year 2011, which is the most recent data available. Nevada received $1,111 compared with a national average of $1,861.

How is that possible?

Don’t point fingers at the White House or the members of Congress; the problem is here at home.

Many federal programs require some sort of matching money and Nevada is frugal, to put it mildly. Even with that, though, there are still millions of dollars more that could come the state’s way to help boost programs for schools, commerce and homeland security, among others. But to get a grant, you have to apply for it, and state agencies don’t have a reputation for aggressively targeting federal money, even though Washington wants to send money this way.

Three years ago, the SAGE Commission, which studied state spending and efficiency, reported that public workers and officials had a “lackadaisical attitude” toward applying for grants, which the commission called “puzzling.”

Indeed, it is.

Nevada’s budget has long been tight. There’s outside money that could help people, but there hasn’t been an aggressive push to get it. For example, the state has had opportunities to cash in on federal grants to retrain unemployed workers. But despite serving the state that had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, the Nevada System of Higher Education has received the bare minimum of funding. The grant funding hasn’t been a priority to the system. It should be.

What’s equally puzzling is how the federal grant money that does come here is distributed. A study by the Lincy Institute at UNLV showed that in fiscal year 2010, Clark County received $772 per person, which was below the state and national averages that year. The study, which is part of an upcoming report, showed that Washoe County received $1,784, close to the national average and above the state average.

Certainly, the size of the population plays a role in the per-capita numbers, but why is there such a disparity? Shouldn’t the state want to put its money where the people live?

There’s a long-standing disparity in Nevada over funding and where it goes, pitting the rural and northern parts of the state against the south. Grants are often evenly split between north and south, ignoring the fact that Clark County is home to 75 percent of the population.

The issue of funding disparity has come up again this year in the Legislature, but the north-south fight often misses a basic point — Clark County isn’t just Southern Nevada, it is Nevada.

The bottom line is that the state should be doing all it can to take advantage of grants and other programs that can help people, particularly in the place where most of the population lives. The fact that it hasn’t is unconscionable. The Legislature should make sure this changes.

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  1. Nevada's state motto is a hindrance...

    "We Can't See the Forest For the Trees!"
    ("we can't see the desert for the sand!")

    Matching dollars require someone to give a damn and to understand that it makes fiscal sense to play the game, not naysayers who are too 'principled' to go after them...(similar to allowing MINING to abscond with all the gold & silver because 'we don't LIKE taxes in Nevada!')

    GRANTS require someone to write thoughtful, cogent arguments and to fill out applications PROPERLY...something Nevada/Clark County/CCSD/et.al has failed MISERABLY at.

    Grant writing is a skill and obviously not one that is valued here... nor do we have folks with the forsight &/or a mandate to hire individuals with the set of skills required to pass Federal muster.

    Those who oppose (accepting) federal dollars on 'principal' should be run out of office on a rail. Individuals with winning grant-writing skills should be recruited and retained by the state/county/school district.

    To do otherwise perpetuates Nevada's stature as a bottom-feeding wasteland incapable of vision and foresight. Bottom of every good list, top of every bad one.

    Of course, there are many among us who find that to be a right fair trade off.

  2. It's not that Nevada legislators are lazy or apathetic, it's just that they need to protect their political careers. Take Federal Healthcare for an example. If you accept any of the money from it, your opponent will start muckraking and tell everyone that you support "Obamacare", and suddenly accuse you of being a socialist, communist, terrorist, etc. So what if it protects the state's budgets to accept that money, who the hell needs the hassle of a tarnished political career because ignorant voters can't be bothered to fact-check for themselves? And I'm not targeting one group. Stupidity is a bi-partisan issue. Doesn't matter if you're some ignorant hippy or a rabid teabagger.

    Imagine next time you're in the checkout line at the grocery store, a restaurant, or anywhere you see one of those donation boxes that ask for money to help needy kids. You think anyone, nay, would you yourself actually donate a single cent if they took your picture and plastered it on billboards and on TV and accused you of being an evil person that supported subversive agendas because of that donation?

    Nevada gets exactly what it deserves: Nothing. And it's because this is the political climate it perpetuates and accepts.

  3. PART 1 of 2:
    One problem NON-profit organizations have is securing superb grant-writers for a pittance paycheck. It is time-consuming, hard work, full of frustration. Oft times, the strings that are attached are oppressive and an unavoidable trade-off. It is UNpopular and grant writers feel the heat and guilt over such things. There needs to be PUBLIC HEARINGS for everyday citizens' input on such decisions, to make decisions we ALL can live with.

    In the last few years, I have had the great fortune to be acquainted with a very kind and generous grant writer who has their child at our school. Grant writing could be classified as a nearly thankless, low paying job. Personal satisfaction of a job well done has to suffice for the most part for these kind, hard working souls.

    Huge amounts of money has been spent on administrative positions in recent years, instead of funds going directly to meet the needs where they were originally intended. Smaller school districts, as in rural Nevada, tend to do much better in part, because folks get together, talk about the budget and policies, and make decisions together, therefore being far more efficient (and accountable) with the funds that they get.

    Southern Nevada has ONE school district that has a TOP DOWN governance, with typically the public, the everyday citizen not feeling that they are heard nor a part of the process. Most neighborhood schools DO NOT advertise, nor invite the parental patrons and taxpayer neighbors to their school budget meetings. THEY are NOT welcomed to school site business. Each year, each and every school must plan, and citizens have the right to view that plan and be a part of it. Check it out for yourself on how many neighborhood citizens are invited to participate routinely on their school's budget. There is your disconnect, that some grants REQUIRE.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. PART 2 of 2
    Commenter Robert Rooney provides some real insight into the motivations of those who the public trusts to do the job we elected them to do, with Rooney explaining,"It's not that Nevada legislators are lazy or apathetic, it's just that they need to protect their political careers. Take Federal Healthcare for an example. If you accept any of the money from it, your opponent will start muckraking and tell everyone that you support "Obamacare", and suddenly accuse you of being a socialist, communist, terrorist, etc. So what if it protects the state's budgets to accept that money, who the hell needs the hassle of a tarnished political career because ignorant voters can't be bothered to fact-check for themselves? And I'm not targeting one group. Stupidity is a bi-partisan issue."

    Commenter Gmag39 takes notice that what is needed is those qualified to do the job, and that they care, with "GRANTS require someone to write thoughtful, cogent arguments and to fill out applications PROPERLY...something Nevada/Clark County/CCSD/et.al has failed MISERABLY at.

    Grant writing is a skill and obviously not one that is valued here... nor do we have folks with the forsight &/or a mandate to hire individuals with the set of skills required to pass Federal muster."

    The Las Vegas Sun has an article about how Nevada school districts dropped the ball in planning 'teacher performance pay plans' and that is holding up following legislation this session. It is NOT the fault of the school neighborhood citizens or parents. NOPE. In the last few years, there has been an INCREASE in administrative positions that has created a situation that has routinely either circumvented or neglected to invite the public they/the school serves to important financial meetings that drive each school for a year. Lesson: hiring MORE administrators is creating a problem with getting the job done. That needs to change.

    As Commenter OpenRange noted,"Incompetence by the southern bureaucrats plays a major role in this "disparity". The reason why Clark County was passed up for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program II (HUD) and Washoe County received $21M is because Clark had a poor record of spending NSPI monies and their NSPII proposal was pathetic.
    As long as the south continues to blame the north for their fiscal issues, the longer they will wallow in their incompetence."

    It is time to evaluate whether the last few years has reaped the results the Nevada Department of Education and CCSD has hoped for, and change what needs fixing.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  5. We Nevadans find investing our money in ourselves to be a totally foreign concept even if the promise of matching funds is there.

  6. We wouldn't need to write grants if Vegas money stayed in Vegas.

    85% of all the total revenue comes from Vegas. Then people in Vegas have to beg the Ways And Means Committe for its own money - so it can match a grant requirement - and work to get Federal money that comes with a thousand strings?

    How about this - our labor, families, and communities keep our revenue.

    And the North raises its own funds with grant writing with the 15% in actual money it provides.

    While this may sound mean - I find it repulsive that I have had to sit through dog and pony show legislative sessions with school districts like Carson City, Elko, and Washoe bragging about excellent - WELL FUNDED - public school programs. Which are subsidized by Vegas redistributed funds via the DSA.

    Give Vegas a chance. Let's see if we can find a way to improve our schools - if we had the same per pupil spending amounts that other places in Nevada have. And Im not even asking for $17,000 like the students receive in Eureaka via mining proceeds money.

    Vegas money needs to stay in Vegas.

  7. In this 77th Nevada Legislative Session, it appears that a plan has been introduced to "wean" Northern Nevada school districts from Southern Nevada monies over a period of time, as a "gracious exit plan" as one Lawmaker proposed.

    Although I agree 100% with Commenter Angie Sullivan's suggestion and take, it appears Lawmakers understand the issue, and the old guard Lawmakers that kept perpetuating the unfair funding model are no longer around to corrupt decent Lawmakers trying to do right, as is happening now, to fairly route Southern Nevada funds back to fund Southern Nevada infrastructure.

    Now we Citizens must insure those funds returning to Southern Nevada are TRANSPARENTLY spent on the infrastructure it is suppose to go to.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  8. All those high-paid managers and administrators within Nevada's DHHS ought to be able to write a grant proposal for federal funding of trial programs for dormitory housing for Veterans, mentally ill, disables, SSI/SSDI recipients..... Said dorms could utilize EBT/SNAP food stamps and make communal meals. They'd qualify for LIHEA utilities if we could decline the applications of a few illegal families. City of LV and County of Clark are also "free" to apply for federal grant funding in many programs. So what's up with that?

  9. These embarrassing riches often really mean the receiver is beholden to the giver. Grants requiring matching funds when a balanced budget results in laying off police and firefighters means more pain in borrowing. I haven't heard of any monies that come free without obligation of some kind.

    I'd rather leave Washington to their self destructive ways if it means taxing and borrowing more. In personal and business finance these practices are bad decisions in many instances. Ask a family or business whose obligations exceed their ability to pay by a significant margin to pay for the privilege of going further into debt and you might get an impolite answer. The math and mechanics don't change just because government is involved; there is no magic wand, only some sleight of hand.