Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2016

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Teacher cuts possible as Clark County School District prepares tentative budget

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The Clark County School District administration building in Las Vegas.

The Clark County School District could shed hundreds of jobs as it faces a “worst-case” budget deficit of nearly $64 million next school year if it doesn’t win its arbitration battle with its teachers union, according to a tentative budget summary to be presented to the School Board next week.

All governmental entities — including the School District — are required by law to submit a tentative budget to the state by April 15 for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The School District’s chief financial officer, Jeff Weiler, is expected to present the tentative budget to the School Board during a work session Wednesday.

The School District’s general fund — which pays for day-to-day operations — is expected to be around $2.05 billion next fiscal year. This represents a decrease of 1.7 percent, or $35.7 million, from the current year.

Since a budget is a moving target of the School District’s financial status with many constantly changing variables, the district’s budget deficit next year could swing from a “best-case scenario” of $3 million to a “worst-case scenario” of $63.9 million, according to a tentative summary posted Friday on the School District website.

Much of it hinges on the results of the arbitration battle still being waged between the School District and the Clark County Education Association, which represents more than 18,000 licensed teachers.

To plug its budget gap, the district is seeking concessions from its teachers union: salary step and education increases. (Its other three employee unions — representing administrators, police and support staff — made concessions during contract negotiations this year.)

The School District has warned in the past that hundreds of teacher positions may be cut should it lose in the arbitration. Even if the School District wins, some teacher, support staff and school administrator positions still may be cut because a one-time federal EduJobs stimulus of $54 million will not be renewed.

Here are the other variables that make up next year’s School District budget, according to the budget summary:

• State per-pupil funding is estimated to be $5,249 next school year. That represents a $113 increase from this year, or a total increase of $25 million.

• There is no reliable estimate of the property tax revenues coming to the School District next year because of the large number of taxpayer appeals. However, the School District is expecting a revenue reduction of 10.5 percent, or $30 million.

• Final student enrollment numbers for the upcoming school year won’t be known until “Count Day” in October. However, the School District is projecting enrollment of 307,574, or a decrease of about 800 students. Despite the decrease, the School District will be funded by the state using current enrollment figures — saving the district more than $3.4 million. That may change, depending on the rising demand for student support services; the School District anticipates an increase of 700 students who may qualify for special education services.

• Fund balances for the current fiscal year that would carry over into the next fiscal year won’t be known until the School District completes its annual financial audit in October. However, the district expects to carry over $25 million less than the beginning fund balance for the current year.

• As the 1998 school capital improvement plan winds down, the School District is looking to voters to fund a new, $5.3 billion capital improvement plan over the next decade to maintain and rehabilitate its aging school facilities. Without voter approval in November, capital-funded positions may be cut.

• Because of increasing gas prices and water rates, the School District is appropriating $8 million more for fuel and utility costs to operate buses and schools.

The tentative budget “represents a ‘starting position’ for discussion and planning purposes,” the summary notes. “Additional reductions may be necessary to arrive at a balanced budget.”

The School Board is scheduled to receive the final budget in May. The deadline for the School District to submit its approved budget to the Nevada Department of Taxation is June 8.

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