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August 31, 2015

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Declining property tax revenue snags School District budget

The Clark County School Board received a budget update on Thursday, and the news wasn't good.

Revenue from property taxes is expected to be down, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler told the board members. He didn't cite a specific amount but said revenue for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, is expected to decrease slightly.

The main problem is that in its budget projections last year, the School District expected an increase in property tax revenue of 5 percent, Weiler said. That seemed reasonable at the time, because the previous year's property tax revenue was up 9 percent. Now it appears instead that revenue will actually decrease slightly, he said.

"We expected it to slow down, but not that fast," he said. "It changed, but with the economy, it's not a surprise."

Schools Superintendent Walt Rulffes said he had been in Carson City talking to legislators earlier in the week, and they are worried.

"Our legislators are in despair," he told the board. "They just learned the hole is deeper than they thought."

School Board member Sheila Moulton asked about the status of federal stabilization money, which is supposed to come to schools as part of the federal stimulus package.

More than 80 percent of the stimulus money is supposed to go to schools, though there is no formula for how it will be split between public schools and higher education, Weiler said. States must fund schools at the 2006 level to receive the money or apply for a waiver. Nevada is expected to apply for a waiver.

Rulffes noted that in his discussions with Gov. Jim Gibbons' office, he learned the state has expressed its intent to apply for the waiver but has not received the application to do so. That could push receipt of the money into May, he said.

He said he thinks the Legislature will come up with some kind of tax to help close the budget gap, but "we can't tax enough to make up for a 40 percent deficit."

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