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June 2, 2015

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Officials say budget could leave 2,500 teachers jobless, force tax hike

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Heather Cory / File photo

Clark County School District officials say Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget would mean job cuts and larger class sizes to make up for a possible $250 million shortfall next fiscal year. A classroom at Green Valley High School is shown here.

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CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval’s reduced education budget would result in the Clark County School District laying off thousands of employees and possibly force officials to raise property taxes to pay off construction bonds, school officials say.

Carolyn Edwards, president of the Clark County School Board, and Jeff Weiler, chief finance officer for the district, told a legislative budget subcommittee that some class sizes would probably increase by eight students and the average starting salary of teachers would fall $3,500 from the present $35,000.

There would be a potential layoff of 2,500 teachers and 700 support personnel, Weiler estimated.

They and other school officials testified that teachers would leave the state's school districts, classes would have to be cut and students might have to pay for taking part in arts and athletic programs.

Sandoval has proposed reducing the average support per student from the current $5,192 to $4,918 in each of the coming school years. The governor is recommending that teachers take a 5 percent cut in salary and pay more into the public employees' retirement system.

Heath Morrison, superintendent of the Washoe County School District, told the committee the governor’s budget would mean a reduction of $6,000 in the $51,829 average pay of teachers in Nevada.

Morrison said the proposed budget would mean a $1.1 billion hit to public schools in Nevada.

Sandoval’s budget calls for taking $425 million from school districts in their bond reserve funds to put into operations. Of that, $300 million would come from Clark County.

Weiler said the Clark County School District would be out of money by 2013 to pay its construction bonds under the proposal. He said it would require either a tax increase or extending the life of bonds, which would mean higher interest rates in the future.

Edwards said extending the time to pay off the current bonds “would eliminate our ability to go out for another bond," adding that the district needs $4.9 billion to refurbish its older schools.

Edwards said the district would be in "significant jeopardy" if this proposal is approved by the Legislature.

Heidi Gansert, chief of staff for Sandoval, said $425 million could be tapped from the reserve funds of the school district. She told the committee the money could be put into operations of the schools and not kept in a “piggy bank.”

School districts must keep a reserve to cover one year of bond payments in cases of financial distress. The governor wants to lower the amount of money required to be kept in reserve.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, chairwoman of the subcommittee, said legislative staff has estimated that $99 million is available from the districts, not $425 million.

Weiler also told the subcommittee that the bond rating of the Clark County School District has been lowered to AA- by Fitch’s Rating and Moody’s Rating. He said this was due to a variety of reasons and not just the suggestion of the governor to take $300 million out of the bond reserve.

The subcommittee did not take any action.

CORRECTION: The name of the Washoe County schools superintendent is Heath Morrison, not Keith Morrison. | (February 24, 2011)

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