Governor directs P-16 council to review existing data systems


CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today signed an executive order directing the P-16 Advisory Council to review education data systems in Nevada. The council, created by statute, helps coordinate education efforts in Nevada from the preschool through postsecondary levels and has the authority to address the data information system for public school students.

“The education initiatives we accomplished this Legislative session will enhance the quality of instruction and improve student achievement throughout our state,” Sandoval said. “The effective use of high-quality education date is integral to the success of these reforms and establishing an effective education data system requires the cooperation of the executive and legislative branches of government, local school districts, Nevada’s System of Higher Education, educators in classrooms and early childhood care providers. This executive order will assist in the process.”

The Council, consisting of 11 members, includes Bret Whipple, Erin Cranor, Caryn Swobe, Stacy Woodbury, John LaGatta, Senator Joe Hardy, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, Cedric Crear, Sue Daellenbach, Linda Johnson and Senator Barbara Cegavske.

According to the executive order, the Council’s recommendations shall address the following:

* Establishing a cross-agency governance structure with representatives who have decision-making authority
* Identifying resource needs in the areas of staffing, technology and funding
* Developing policies that outline what data are shared and how; where they will be stored; how often they will be updated; who will conduct analyses; how privacy will be protected, etc.
* Creating a vision for the state’s longitudinal data system to ensure it will support the state’s education and workforce development needs
* Any necessary legislation to carry out the Council’s recommendations.

The order requires quarterly reports on February 1, May 1, and August 1 and all work completed by August 1, 2012.

County proposes to balance levels of service, reserves and tax rates for Regional Animal Services


On Sept. 27, the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners (in a 4-1 vote, Jung dissenting) directed staff to build the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget maintaining the county’s overall tax rate for services such as law enforcement, criminal justice and human services, while temporarily reducing the tax rate for animal services, by utilizing a portion of accumulated reserves in the animal services fund to help fund operations at Regional Animal Services for one year.

The proposed reduction would be included in the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget process.

The intent is to utilize some of the $5.6 million surplus in the dedicated animal services reserve account to fund a portion of the $4 million annual operating cost of Regional Animal Services. This action is similar to actions the county has taken to utilize reserves in other areas to help fund critical services during this economic recession. Animal services reserves would only be used to fund animal services operations.

Currently, Regional Animal Services utilizes license income, donations and a property tax rate of 3 cents, which together generate more revenues each year than are needed for the annual operations, leading to the surplus accumulated reserves in the animal services fund. By way of comparison, the Government Finance Officers Association recommends that up to two months working capital, or 16 percent of expenditures, be held in reserve; the animal service fund has in excess of 100 percent of expenditures in reserve.

For other county budget units, the policy is to maintain 8-10 percent in reserve. Continuing to impose the maximum rate and increasing those reserves in the current conditions means that taxpayers are being overtaxed for animal services, to the detriment of other services like law enforcement, criminal justice and human services, because the region is at the maximum allowable overlapping tax rate.

In 2002, voters approved a two-part ballot question to authorize the issuance of up to $10,750,000 of general obligation bonds to build a new animal shelter and up to 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for operating and maintaining the shelter and providing animal services. The County Commission issued the bonds, paid for with a .54 tax rate that is ongoing, built the shelter and imposed the maximum allowable tax rate of 3 cents for operations, allocating all the revenues to Regional Animal Services.

Ballot questions are written with this “up to” flexibility in recognition of the changing circumstances that can occur during the life of the tax (in this case 30 years). In some cases, the tax rate produces too little revenue to support the function, in which case the County Commission uses general fund resources to supplement the resources, as has been done to supplement the 1-cent voter-approved rate for senior services. In other cases, the tax rate can produce more revenue than is needed, as is currently the case in animal services.

Even with more than adequate funds in reserve, RAS continues to collect revenue annually in excess of the costs to provide animal services to the community. The proposal is to temporarily reduce the property tax dedicated to animal services from 3 cents on every $100 to 0.63 cents in fiscal year 2012-2013, and during 2012-2013, to use restricted animal services reserve funds to support animal services operations.

The property tax devoted to operations would increase back to $2.63 in fiscal year 2013-2014 and would remain there to fund a sustainable service level. The proposal does not include adjusting the property tax dedicated to paying bonds for the animal shelter. Using this plan, the county can maintain current service levels in Regional Animal Services, maintain critical public services and still preserve the same overall tax rate.

In other action, the board approved adjustments to the 2011-2012 budget for all county departments that will save $25.6 million dollars over the next two years.

The commission approved a 10 percent reduction in the animal services budget ($450,000 annually), which is consistent with reductions in many other departments to achieve sustainable service levels. By utilizing vacant positions, Regional Animal Services can achieve the budget reduction without lay-offs and not have a major impact on current service levels.

Other core departments, including roads maintenance, regional parks and open space and water resources were required to make the same 10 percent cut as animal services in order to achieve a balanced budget with sustainable service levels within available resources. The approved reductions followed a review by the board of 10 percent reduction plans prepared by all departments to redefine what services would be provided, and how they would be provided, in keeping with the county’s financial sustainability plan.

RAS currently has 33 positions (three supervisors and 30 staff) and will reduce down to 28 positions, utilizing vacancies and avoiding any lay-offs, and continuing to provide appropriate response to all calls for service. This is the first budget reduction approved for Regional Animal Services in the four years of budget cuts the County has undergone, despite significant cuts to departments that support animal services, such as finance, human resources, technology, fleet management, etc.

The budget reductions adopted for the entire county budget will result in a net loss of up to 146 positions and further reduce the operating budgets of departments by up to 10 percent. The county’s overall budget has now been reduced by a total of $161 million and 915 jobs since 2007/8.

A detailed listing of the impact of the adjustments on various departments can be found on the Washoe County website under the agenda for the Sept. 27 meeting. In addition, a frequently asked question summary is available online for the proposed animal services revenue and budget changes.

Sheriff’s Office seeks help identifying man filmed stealing scrap metal



The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is seeking assistance from the public in identifying a white male in his late 50s or early 60s who was caught in the act of stealing scrap metal from an undisclosed business in Verdi last Saturday afternoon.

The approximate value of the stolen scrap metal is undetermined at this time. The Sheriff’s Office Detectives Division is continuing this investigation and would encourage anyone with information on the identity of the male suspect to call 328-4420 or remain anonymous by calling Secret Witness at 322-4900.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office celebrates 150 years of proud service and community partnership in 2011. Sheriff Michael Haley is the 24th person elected to serve as the sheriff of Washoe County. His office continues to be the only full service public safety agency operating within northern Nevada and is responsible for operating the consolidated detention facility, regional crime lab, Northern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, court security, service of civil process and traditional street patrols.

ELY: Westside rangeland project decision announced



SPARKS – Jeanne Higgins, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor, today released the Ely Ranger District’s Ely Westside Rangeland Project Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).  The FEIS discloses the effects of domestic livestock on 12 grazing allotments located in Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine counties in Nevada.


Higgins selected Alternative 1 (Proposed Action) in her ROD and authorized continued livestock grazing on the Blackrock, Cherry Creek, Currant, Ellison Basin, Illipah, Pine Creek/Quinn Canyon, Tom Plain, Treasure Hill, and Troy Mountain allotments.  Grazing was not authorized on the Big Creek, Hooper Canyon, and Irwin Canyon allotments, which have been vacant for a number of years.


Six of these allotments (Blackrock, Currant, Ellison Basin, Illipah, Tom Plain, and Treasure Hill) are located on the White Pine Range and the other six allotments (Big Creek, Cherry Creek, Irwin Canyon, Hooper Canyon, Pine Creek/Quinn Canyon, and Troy Mountain) are located on the Grant-Quinn Range.


This decision may be appealed by those who provided substantive comments during the comment period under the process outlined in 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 215.  Appeals under the 215 regulations must be filed within 45 days of the publication of the notice of this decision in the Elko Daily Free Press, in Elko, Nevada.


The decision may also be appealed by existing permittees and applicants for grazing permits for the allotments in the project area under the process outlined in 36 CFR 251.  Appeals under the 251 regulations must be filed within 45 days of the notice of the written decision.  Both of these processes are discussed in the ROD.


A copy of the Record of Decision and the FEIS, along with maps and other project documents, are available on the Humboldt-Toiyabe website at or via CD or hard copy.


Learn more about this release by contacting either Jeanne Higgins at 775-355-5304, or Vernon Keller, Project Manager, at 775-355-5356.

Forest Service announces Pacific Crest Trail crossing decision



SPARKS –  Jeanne Higgins, Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest Supervisor, released her decision for the snowmobile crossing location for the Pacific Crest Trail, just south of Sonora Pass near Bridgeport, California. The Forest Service issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Decision Notice/Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Crossing Project this week.


Higgins selected Alternative 4 as described in the EA.  The EA describes three action alternatives and a no- action alternative.  “The selected alternative was chosen because it meets the project’s purpose and need, and is responsive to public comments, interests, concerns, and ideas expressed during scoping,” said Higgins.


“After thoroughly reviewing the EA, I chose the crossing that minimizes snowmobilers’ exposure to avalanche risk, provides legal access to Highway 108 near Sonora Pass, and provides the opportunity for the agency to adjust management as more information becomes known about the Sierra Nevada red fox,” she said.


The selected alternative is the same snowmobile crossing and route as the agency proposed during scoping, which is the process used to gather public input.   Alternative 4, however, includes adaptive management, based on the annual monitoring of snowmobile use and its effects on the Pacific Crest Trail experience, avalanche exposure, and wildlife, particularly the Sierra Nevada red fox.

In addition, the decision amends the Toiyabe Forest Plan to allow for motorized use along the designated snowmobile crossing route in an area otherwise managed under a “Wilderness” prescription that prohibits motorized use.

The Omnibus Public Land Act of 2009 (Act), directed the Forest Service to create a motorized winter crossing of the Pacific Crest Trail in accordance with the National Trails System Act and applicable environmental and public safety laws.  The Act states that the crossing will not interfere with the nature and purposes of the Pacific Crest Trail or harm the surrounding landscape.


In August 2010, a Sierra Nevada red fox was discovered during routine photo monitoring in the Pacific Crest Trail Crossing area.  Two more sightings were recorded in the following weeks.  Prior to the discovery of the Sonora Pass population, the only other Sierra Nevada red fox population was located near Lassen Peak, 200 miles north of Sonora Pass.


“We don’t know much about the effects of recreation use on the Sierra Nevada red fox,” said Sherri Lisius, Bridgeport Ranger District wildlife biologist.  Lisius explained that the decision provides a designated crossing for snowmobilers, while the agency monitors potential effects to the red fox and other wildlife species and responds accordingly.


The Forest Service initiated a 30-day public comment period in June of 2010, to gather input from the public and interested individuals and groups on a proposed action.  In March of 2011, a second comment period was initiated for two reasons:  1) A Forest Plan amendment was required for action alternatives 2 and 4 to allow motorized use on the designated crossing corridor, and, 2) the Sierra Nevada red fox was discovered in the PCT Crossing Area after the initial comment period.


Copies of the EA, Decision Notice/FONSI may be obtained from the Bridgeport Ranger District office in Bridgeport, California, or on-line at


The Pacific Crest Trail Crossing decision is subject to appeal in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations.  Individuals or groups that submitted written comments or otherwise expressed interest in this particular action during the comment period have standing to appeal this decision.  Appeals must be filed within 45 days following the date of publication of the legal notice of this decision in the Reno Gazette-Journal, the newspaper of record.


Learn more about the decision or the Forest Service appeal process by contacting Jeanne Higgins at 775-355-5304, or Mike Crawley, Bridgeport District Ranger, at 760-272-7374.

BLM’s “Director’s Challenge” will enhance volunteer opportunities on western rangelands



WASHINGTON – As part of its ongoing effort to ensure the health of Western public rangelands, the Bureau of Land Management is announcing its “Director’s Challenge” initiative to expand volunteer participation in monitoring and sustaining the health of wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas (HMAs).  More specifically, this volunteer program is aimed at engaging members of the public in monitoring, conducting inventories, and restoring natural resources on BLM-managed HMAs throughout the West.


The Director’s Challenge initiative will offer citizen-based science opportunities that enhance both the BLM’s and stakeholders’ knowledge of resource conditions on public lands.  Under this initiative, BLM field offices may receive up to $25,000 to implement projects that will engage citizen stakeholders in addressing land health issues within the HMAs.  Possible challenge projects include conducting inventories of water sources, monitoring riparian area conditions, removing invasive plant species, and protecting spring sources.


“The BLM is committed to ensuring the health of the Western rangelands so that the species depending on them – including the nation’s wild horses and burros – can thrive,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey.  “The projects that will spring from this challenge will enhance the BLM’s ability to make land management decisions based on the most current information, while also providing hands-on opportunities for those committed to preserving the Western rangeland.”


Appropriate challenge activities may range from projects requiring specific skills and/or training, such as the inventory of key resource indicators, to riparian restoration projects that may require minimal training.  Community or partnership-supported volunteer efforts are preferred, and field offices will recruit individuals at, where volunteers can review project opportunities.

Governor and First Lady participate in Read for the Record Day


CARSON CITY — Governor Brian and First Lady Kathleen Sandoval participated in Pearson Foundation’s Read for the Record Day by reading at schools in Reno and Las Vegas today.  The book Llama Llama Red Pajama was read in schools throughout the state.

Governor Brian Sandoval read in Las Vegas at Our Lady of Las Vegas, Whitney Elementary School and Odyssey Charter School.

“Yesterday, I spoke in Las Vegas about my desire to end the practice of social promotion in our schools,” Governor Sandoval said. “Reading is the most critical skill we can give students, and we must take steps to ensure they are proficient by the third grade and therefore better equipped for life-long learning.  Today’s reading program throughout our state emphasized this same commitment.”

First Lady Kathleen Sandoval read at four Reno schools including Roy Gomm Elementary, Stead Elementary, Desert Heights Elementary and Mariposa Academy.

“Reading is such an important component of a student’s learning process and it’s vital to start early,” First Lady Kathleen Sandoval said. “I enjoyed reading to kindergarteners and first graders in the Washoe County School District and I encourage them to read Llama Llama Red Pajama with their families tonight.”

As part of Read for the Record Day, the Pearson Foundation, a national sponsor of the day, provided copies of the book to each student the Governor and First Lady read to.

Boy Scouts improve sage-grouse habitat



BRIDGEPORT, Calif. — Boy Scouts of America Troop 495, from Minden, Nevada, completed a fence-marking project in greater sage-grouse habitat in Mineral and Lyon Counties in partnership with the Forest Service on September 25, 2011.


Star Scout, Gus Lister, led five scouts and four parents through this project as a part of the requirements to qualify for the prestigious Boy Scouts of America William T. Hornaday Conservation award.  The group made over 1,000 markers and then placed these markers on fences with Forest Service wildlife staff over the last two Sundays in September.


The markers are made of vinyl siding, cut into small pieces and hung on the wires of the fence.  In addition to markers the scouts made, they received a donation of 300 markers from Firefly Diverters LLC.


Collisions with fences are a known cause of mortality for sage-grouse; marking fences with a material that makes the fence more visible can prevent the birds from hitting the fence.  Studies suggest that marking fences can decrease bird mortality by 70 percent.  The markers were strategically placed where grouse mortalities have been recently documented.


“Gus and his scout troop are a great asset to the wildlife program on the Humboldt-Toiyabe – this is the second project they helped us complete that will literally save animals lives,” said Mike Crawley, Bridgeport District Ranger, on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.  “Anything we can do to support projects that prevent sage-grouse mortalities is important,” said Crawley.


“The simple fact that two-to-three-inch pieces of vinyl, in volume, have such a large potential to save wildlife was vividly demonstrated during this project,” said Doug Lister, Assistant Scout Master for Troop 495.  “We were able to not only provide a visual marker for sage grouse, but also other wildlife such as pronghorn,” continued Lister.


“It was a pleasure and privilege to work with the Bridgeport Ranger District on a project that has real potential to save sage grouse,” said Gus Lister.   “It was amazing to see how much more visible the fence was after we placed the markers,” remarked Lister.


The scouts are excited to hear that their efforts will have a positive impact on wildlife survivability. The greater sage-grouse is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  It was determined by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that the birds were warranted for listing but the listing was precluded by species with higher priorities.


The birds in Lyon and Mineral County are part of a distinct population segment of the greater sage grouse. This distinct population segment, called the bi-state population, was given a higher priority for listing than the greater sage-grouse as a whole.


This higher priority for listing is a result of more immediate and severe threats the bi-state population is facing.  These threats include habitat loss caused by development, grazing, invasive species, pinyon encroachment, and wildfire.


Learn more about this release by contacting Sherri Lisius, Bridgeport Ranger District Wildlife Biologist, Mike Crawley, Bridgeport District Ranger, at 760-932-7070, or Doug Lister, Assistant Scout Master for Troop 495, at 760-932-1545.

Nevada Supreme Court wants more information in SOS redistricting request

Secretary of State Ross Miller. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

By Nevada News Bureau Staff: The Nevada Supreme Court today issued an order instructing Secretary of State Ross Miller to supplement the petition filed by his office earlier this week asking the court to intervene in the redistricting issue now in Carson City District Court.

Secretary of State Ross Miller. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The court today issued an order telling Miller to address: (1) whether the Legislature discharged its mandatory duty under Article 4, Section 5 of the Nevada constitution; 1 (2) if not, can or should the Nevada state courts engage in the act of redistricting as contrasted with reviewing a legislatively established plan; and (3) if the matter is one over which the judiciary can or should exercise authority, in addition to any other issues the Secretary wishes to address…”

“It is the intention of the Secretary of State’s office to fully comply with the order of the Nevada Supreme Court,” Miller said in response to the order. “As has already been established, the Secretary of State’s office will have no further comment on the matter until it is heard by the courts.”

On Monday, Miller filed the petition asking the court to intervene, arguing that Carson District Judge James Todd Russell failed to address key issues before asking a panel of three special masters to draw new political lines for four congressional seats and the 63 seats of the Nevada Legislature.

A key issue is whether the special masters should attempt to create a new congressional seat in Las Vegas that is composed of a large percentage of Hispanic residents.

The special masters are scheduled to take public testimony on Monday and Tuesday before drawing new lines based on the 2010 census and submitting the maps to Russell for his review by Oct. 21.

The redistricting issue ended up in the courts after Republicans and Democrats in the 2011 legislative session failed to reach agreement on the new political lines for the 2012 elections.

American Jobs Act may create unfunded burden on state

By Nevada News Bureau Staff: When he visits Las Vegas on Oct. 24, President Barack Obama will continue his nationwide tour urging Congress to pass the Americans Jobs Act, his $450 billion plan to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

“Pass this jobs bill, and there will be funding to save the jobs of up to 13,000 North Carolina teachers, cops, and firefighters,” Obama said earlier this month to thousands of supporters at North Carolina State University.

The president has not, however, shared with voters that his jobs bill as presented would fund many of the proposed jobs for only one year, nor has he explained his plan for how the jobs would be paid for once federal funds run out.

A recent White House press release on the impact of the American Jobs Act in Nevada said the measure would help Nevada localities avoid and reverse layoffs, through an influx of $258.3 million to support up to 3,600 educator and first responder (police and firefighter) jobs.

Dividing the $258.3 million in federal funding proposed for Nevada by 3,600 jobs yields $71,750 to cover salary, benefits, and other costs associated with providing each position. Based on average teacher or first responder pay and benefits in the state, it is likely that funding from the jobs bill would, on average, cover no more than one year of total compensation.

For example, teacher salaries before benefits in Clark County School District range from $34,688 to $69,272. After benefits are added in, teacher pay packages range from $50,267 to $93,785, the median being $72,026.

Sections 204-209 of the bill as proposed include provisions requiring states to “meet the requirements” of the measure for an additional two years.

A White House spokeswoman has said the bill includes no unfunded mandates but unless Nevada picks up the funding for these positions after the first year or so, it is unclear how the teachers and first responders supported by it would be paid going forward.

Should the state’s economy improve significantly, revenue would flow into the state coffers and enable a continuation of funding. However, recent economic reports and projections make the prospect of significantly increased state funds seem unlikely at present.

Another issue is that the traditional school year has begun, local school districts have hired teachers, and classes are under way. Even if the bill became law quickly, it is unclear how Nevada government agencies could accept and process the federal money and achieve the president’s job goals during the current school year.

The nation

Obama’s American Jobs Act includes $35 billion for state and local government employees: $30 billion to hire or preserve the jobs of public school teachers, and $5 billion for police officers, firefighters, and other first responders.

In the White House analysis for each state, the categories are combined. One-seventh, or 14 percent, of the money covers first responders.

An analysis of the planned allotment and estimated jobs from each state yields a nationwide average cost per job of $74,757.

Background information provided by the White House on the American Jobs Act bases the distribution of funds to each state primarily on population. The job estimates rely on public sector labor costs obtained from each state.

(For an Excel spreadsheet with the state-by-state breakdown, click here.)

An analysis places Nevada 22nd among the states in cost per job.

At the extreme ends of the rankings, South Dakota would receive the least money per job and New York the most.

South Dakota would get $77.6 million for an estimated 1,600 jobs, or $48,500 per job. New York, by contrast, would receive $1.77 billion for an estimated 18,000 jobs, or $98,322 per job.

California ranks second to New York with $3.6 billion for an estimated 37,300 jobs, $97,086 per job