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November 26, 2015

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Clark County School Board hears the grim budget details it confronts


Justin M. Bowen / File photo

The Clark County School District administration building in Las Vegas.

School budget meeting

KSNV coverage of Clark County School Board meeting to discuss budget crisis, Feb. 17, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Carolyn Edwards

Click to enlarge photo

Gov. Brian Sandoval addresses the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at a luncheon held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas.

This has all the makings of fiscal chaos:

Before the Clark County School District knows how much money it’ll have for the next two years, it will first have to:

• Negotiate contracts with teachers, administrators and clerical staff.

• Talk employees out of pay raises they were scheduled to receive.

• Decide whether to lay off of as many as 3,800 teachers and others, or cut 33 days out of the school year, or cram so many students into classroom as to risk making them unmanageable.

• Adopt a final budget by May.

And then, maybe by late June at best, the district will know how much money it has to spend under the budget hammered out by Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature.

This was all laid out Thursday at a special meeting of the School Board.

“This is devastating all the way around,” said Joyce Haldeman, the district’s associate superintendent and chief lobbyist.

School Board President Carolyn Edwards said, “For all of the teachers and support staff out there, this is not what we’re going to do.”

She said these issues are subject to negotiations with the teachers union and others. But she noted that “rumors are already running wild.”

Teachers union President Ruben Murillo said in an e-mail about contract negotiations, “Just starting. Nothing to report.”

Sandoval has proposed significant funding cuts in K-12 education to help balance the state budget.

And he has proposed taking money the district has banked for bond payments on school construction — also to help balance the state budget.

Sandoval wants to take $300 million in debt service reserves to shore up the budget. Later, $150 million would be returned to the district for salaries and other operating expenses. The School Board, some members close to tears, voted 7-0 to oppose using the money to balance the budget or “for any other purpose” not approved by voters in the 1998 vote for the multibillion-dollar bond that created the reserves.

Statewide, Sandoval wants more than $425 million in debt service reserves reassigned.

The district’s options are limited.

School Board member Linda Young wondered whether the district could sue the state to stop the use of debt service reserves.

Bill Hoffman, the district’s top lawyer, said no legal action could be taken until after the Legislature approves a budget. If lawmakers agree to raid the funding, which is unclear this early in the session, the district might argue the move is illegal, Hoffman said.

“We’re faced with a situation where we originally said we were going to do one thing (with the money) and the public expects that to happen, and now the circumstances have changed,” Hoffman said.

“That one thing,” he added, “is that the money was going to be used for capital things rather than operational things.”

John Cole, the newest board member, was on the committee overseeing the voter-approved bond in 1998.

“We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Cole said. “We’re robbing the future to pay the present.”

Jeff Weiler, the district’s chief financial officer, said the district might sell new bonds, but they would carry higher interest rates and hurt the district’s ability to maintain and repair schools.

Haldeman said: “The message we’ll take to Carson City is we don’t approve of the governor’s plan.”

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