As social service agencies grapple with recent rounds of state budget cuts, Douglas County commissioners might be in position to lend a helping hand.
County Administrator Craig Weinaug said commissioners could choose to dip into a $1.5 million reserve fund that could be used to handle requests from some agencies.
“The county would be capable of doing that for the short run,” he said. “We could not do it on a continuing basis without a tax increase.”
State leaders have made widespread cuts to social service agencies because of the recession. For example, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center lost $785,000 and was forced to reduce services that affect low-income residents and people without health insurance.
County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said commissioners would likely wait a few weeks to see a clearer picture develop of what agencies face in the wake of state cuts, and to see what action legislators want to take during the current session.
Thellman said by using reserves, commissioners could provide assistance, but not fully restore what the state has cut.
In his State of the State Address to the Legislature last Monday, Gov. Mark Parkinson said he wanted to increase the state sales tax by 1 percent for three years, plus enact a cigarette tax increase to combat a $400 million revenue shortfall. The plan has received a cool reception.
Weinaug said he was encouraged that a plan to increase the state’s revenue stream had surfaced, as opposed to more cuts.
“What happens when their finances are not in order is (legislators) find a way to push the problem on down to us,” Weinaug said.