LAS VEGAS -- In a 6-1 ruling issued Thursday, the Nevada Supreme Court determined that Clark County improperly underfunded the Southern Nevada Health District's budget for fiscal 2012 based on an interpretation of state law.
County spokesman Erik Pappa said Friday the ruling is expected to cost the cash-strapped county at least $18 million.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit the health district filed against the county in June 2011. A district court judge ruled in September 2011 that the health district was entitled to collect from the county 3.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in property tax revenue for its own budget.
That means that for fiscal 2012, which ended on June 30, the health district should have received $21,560,482 from the county instead of the $5,692,495 it actually received. That's a difference of $15,867,987.
The judge ordered the county to pay the $21,560,482, meaning the county would have to make up the $15,867,987 difference. But the county believes it will be forced to transfer even more money to the health district to cover fiscal 2013, which began July 1.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the county will have figure out where to make cuts to get the funding to the health district.
"The money has to come from somewhere, so we either have to cut or eliminate other programs or services that exist countywide or else get more revenue," Sisolak said. "I don't know where else you are going to get more revenue without raising taxes and I just can't support that."
The county appealed the judge's ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court but the high court upheld the lower court decision in the health district's favor.
Health district spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said no decision has been made on how to spend the money beyond the fact that it will go toward public health services. She said the final decision will have to be made by the health district board, which doesn't have a scheduled meeting until Jan. 24. But she said they have the option to call a special meeting before then.