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State begins fiscal watch of county

Fiscal watch is officially in effect for Nye County as the state issued a notice to county officials on Monday.

In a notice of fiscal watch status that was emailed to Nye County officials, the Nevada Department of Taxation said that in consultation with the Committee on Local Government Finance, it had identified several financial conditions that exist in Nye County and said that these conditions are "serious enough" to warrant a "fiscal watch" status.

"It's not a bad thing," Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said. "It gives us another partner working through this hard economic situation."

Fiscal watch, a low-level monitoring of the finances that creates greater cooperation and exchange information with the state because of the county's financial situation, was recommended by the state oversight board in Las Vegas and Carson City last week.

The goal of the procedure, according to the notice, is to provide financial accountability and an early warning system about whether the county may be heading into financial trouble.

Under fiscal watch, the department will ask for increased financial reporting that will include a monthly cash flow statement and a written status report on how fiscal practices on budgetary conditions have been corrected, improved or declined, the notice said.

"I don't think anyone should say that the sky is falling, it's just a monitoring system to make sure that the sky isn't falling," Terry Rubald, deputy executive director for the Nevada Department of Taxation said in an interview.

Fiscal watch however doesn't put the county under state control. Rubald said the state will not place an appointed person in the Nye County office under the procedure.

"It's a heightened awareness which means that we just focus more of our attention on the financial reports we would ask for to be sent to our office," Rubald said.

Instead, a representative of the county's financial staff will be asked to appear periodically at meetings of CLGF to give an update on the status of the financial condition of the county.

Among issues that were brought up at the meeting last week were deficiencies in internal controls, expenditures in excess of appropriations, transactions between the PETT emergency fund and the general fund and low-budgeted ending fund balance.

Separately, state officials also addressed Northern Nye County Hospital taxing district, stating that it has the authority to levy a tax to operate only a full-fledged hospital.

In September 2015, nine out of 27 conditions e xisted in Nye County, but Rubald said the county has since improved its performance.

"If we don't monitor in a timely manner and things go south, then it makes it even more difficult to correct the conditions. That's what fiscal watch is about," she said.

Fiscal watch will be in effect until the conditions improve, officials said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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