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April 16, 2014

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Voters reject School District’s capital improvements proposal

District says message from voters was ‘not yet’

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 | 6:34 a.m.

Clark County School District pushing Question 2 advertisement

KSNV reports that NPRI charges Clark County School District of violating ethics to push Question 2 ballot proposal, Oct. 24.

The Clark County School District's tax initiative to fund school renovations has failed.

The capital improvement plan lost steam even before the final votes were tallied Tuesday night, as more than two-thirds of voters said no to the tax increase in early voting.

Nearly 463,700 Clark County residents cast early ballots for Question 2, according to the Clark County Elections Department. There were 312,128 votes — or 67 percent of all early votes — cast against the School District proposal.

"That majority is pretty wide," said Joyce Haldeman, the district's associate superintendent of community and government relations, shortly after early vote results were released before 9 p.m. "I don't see how we can overcome that."

That large margin persisted until the final results came in around midnight. The initiative was overwhelmingly rejected, 65.6 percent to 34.4 percent.

This represents the first time in about 25 years that a capital improvement proposal put forward by the School District has failed, Haldeman said.

The nation's fifth-largest school district was seeking voter approval to temporarily raise property taxes by 21 cents per $100 in assessed valuation for up to six years, or about $74 per year on a property assessed at $100,000.

The School District had hoped to generate up to $720 million over the six-year capital program to fund high-priority renovations and technology upgrades at 40 schools. These schools are among the district's oldest and most dilapidated schools, facing unreliable heating and cooling systems, leaking roofs and flooding floors, inadequate electrical outlets and crowded classroom space.

The capital program also would have funded construction of two new elementary schools to alleviate overcrowding in the southwest valley, and the replacement of aging Lincoln and Rex Bell elementary schools.

Haldeman blamed the recession for the tax initiative's failure. That was something the School District had worried about for months leading up to the School Board's June decision to pursue the pay-as-you-go plan.

"These economic times are so difficult right now," Haldeman said, adding the district was disappointed in the results. "The message we got tonight was, 'not yet.' We'll learn from this and figure out what's next."

What's next may be that as HVAC and electrical systems continue to fail, schools may become too unsafe for students, Haldeman said. For months, district officials warned of possible school closures in the future, as well as a return to the unpopular year-round school schedule.

This will not happen tomorrow, Haldeman said, as the School Board will decide on these drastic measures on a school-by-school basis.

"As systems fail and schools face difficulties, there will be tough decisions made by the trustees," Haldeman said.

Even with the help of a political action committee spearheaded by four former first ladies of Nevada, Question 2 was met with fierce opposition, notably from the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

"Tonight, Clark County voters overwhelmingly rejected a tax increase that would not have increased student achievement but would have enabled more wasteful spending by CCSD officials," said NPRI spokesman Victor Joecks in a statement Tuesday night. "The most encouraging thing about this election is that voters rejected the district's spin that more spending would increase student achievement."

The libertarian think-tank filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to derail the proposal from getting on the ballot and questioned the district's need for $669 million in school renovations.

NPRI also argued the average age of a Las Vegas school was 22 years old, which is about half the average age of schools nationally. In addition, NPRI found the district had spent $490 million since 1994 on school construction projects at the 40 schools slated for improvements.

The district responded, saying about a third of its 357 schools were more than 30 years old. About a quarter, or 28, of those schools are more than 50 years old.

Officials also argued that Clark County spends less money than some of its peer districts on school maintenance. As the recession ravaged Las Vegas, the School District deferred crucial school repairs, slashed its maintenance budget and postponed asking voters for a new school bond program in 2008 and 2010.

Voters — young and old and from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds — seemed to have mixed opinions on Question 2 as they came out in droves earlier Tuesday to cast their ballots.

As expected, voters with strong ties to the School District were more likely to support the tax initiative.

Laura Abarza, a 21-year-old local high school graduate who is currently enrolled at CSN, said Clark County schools need the additional tax dollars to alleviate overcrowding in classrooms.

"I don't care if we need to pay more," Abarza said. "I don't mind paying extra in taxes to get the schools back on track."

Erika Calleros, a 28-year-old California transplant who works in real estate, said she supported the capital improvement plan. Calleros has a 6-year-old child in the School District.

"Seeing the schools, it's clear they need repairs," Calleros said. "I don't see why not. Why not contribute a little more to help schools. It's minimal."

On the other hand, some voters said they wouldn't support the tax initiative for a variety of reasons. They tended to be older voters who were more removed from the School District.

Bill Evans, 59, and his wife, Rebbecca Evans, 55, rode their bikes early Tuesday afternoon to John Bass Elementary School in the southern valley. They once had two children in the School District but enrolled them in a private school because of the district's poor education rankings.

The Evanses didn't support the tax initiative because they said the School District received enough money in per-pupil funding.

"There needs to be better management," Bill Evans said. "I know we need new facilities, but we've invested a lot in that. We ought to be able to (fix schools) without going to the voters."

Some voters said a tax hike during the middle of an economic recovery in Las Vegas wasn't a prudent idea.

RJ Magee, 25, works at his family's local HVAC business. He said he was worried about homeowners and small businesses that might be hurt by the tax increase for schools.

"With the economy down, I don't want to increase taxes," he said.

UNLV junior Sheena Staana, 20, agreed.

"I don't want to raise property taxes," said the Philippines native who became a naturalized American citizen. "We pay a lot of taxes already."

Other voters simply said they couldn’t afford additional taxes.

"I have no money," said Marcus Gordon, 40, a military veteran. "I know schools are important, but they can get it from somewhere else. Can't tax me if I don't have it."

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  1. It was not the recession that defeated this bill, it is the incompetence of CCSD to effectively use the money we have already approved for them. Simply put, they are not good stewards.

  2. boftx....I WHOLEHEARTLDY agree. They school needed to be repaired before but the district WASTED the money. Time to buckle down and get "creative".

  3. It went the way it should - down in flames. Now we should privatize the failed system. It is and has been an utter failure for decades - cranking out functionally illiterates by the drove. Any such private enterprise would long ago have folded. But, because it's a taxpayer funded bureaucracy, it just slogs along draining our pocketbooks while producing one disasterous result after another.

  4. So $6/month is too much? NPRI needs a lesson in fifth grade math: an 'average age' of 22 years for Las Vegas Schools DOES NOT mean that a 50 year old school is 22 years old.

    Technology companies will not be moving to a State that doesn't understand fifth grade math.

  5. Typical Democratic vote. We want everything fixed, funded for free, paid for by the government, but we don't want to pay for it. Very sad that you vote for money spenders and then when it's your money you turn and run the other way. At some point you will realize that you are the government. Nothing is free, everybody pays. A simple concept beyond the grasp of the Nevada people.

  6. NV is 50th in education. The reason is not because of inadequate funding. The voters/citizens can't afford to throw good money after bad. If politicians feel more money is the sole answer to bringing education out of the basement, they should approve a state lottery with the proceeds going solely to education and not into the general fund.

  7. Voters in Arizona kicked a school tax increase to the curb as well..

  8. I would have voted for this proposition if the economy is in better shape. It is very hard to pay more if your mortgage is already underwater and any additional taxes, no matter how small, is like rubbing salt on an open wound.

  9. "We want everything fixed, funded for free, paid for by the government," "So $6/month is too much?"
    "NV is 50th in education."...................... Well the Chameleon party and the 47%ers pretty much proved that last night.

  10. I am so pleased that more money is not being thrown at a system that is such a train wreak.

  11. The School System has failed the County AND it's students for Decades. In Lean and Fat Times the Results have always been Poor. Even in the Race To The Top funding application the Teachers Union was incredibly difficult to work with in establishing Teacher and System accountability. Additionally, Politician have been giving the School System Lip Service since they can deny direct responsibility. The Entire Management Structure of the School System needs overhaul with the Superintendent being a Direct hire by One Political Official.
    Property Taxes to fund Education must be changed as the Majority of the Population no longer has attachments to the Public Education System and Property Tax initiatives become impossible to pass. Mining (Especially Mining), Gaming and a Progressive Income Tax must be considered in place of Property Taxes and allow for the First 100k of Home Value to be eliminated from Taxes.

    Now after this election that we've seen the amounts of money our Billionaires have to throw out the window for Politics, compared to their minimal expense in philanthropic giving in this Community that got them where they are - It's time for a Minimal State Tax on them.

  12. Thank God the voters are coming around. Let's NOT follow California into the ocean. The million or so illegals they take in each year has bankrupted California and threatens Nevada. We must DEMAND K-12 perform and obtain good results--graduates who can read and write, who can sustain themselves with modest income from entry-level jobs. Graduates need to have options like knowing how to find an affordable place to live, find room mates, buy economical groceries, prepare meals, manage an income, utilize contraception effectively, offer something worthwhile in developing a relationship. K-12 has FAILED and keeps failing. Higher ed is even worse--no results for multi-millions and billions every year. Now they want to import out-of-state students so Nevada taxpayers can subsidize THEIR higher ed???? We need some priority rearrangement in the alleged "accountability" that Klaich keeps harping about.

  13. Not yet, NOT EVER. Clean up your act CCSD/NSHE.

  14. I'll be curious to see if polls show "who" voted "for what" re school tax...
    I'm living/dying in Vegas, childless. I have 2 school age nephews in Boulder City, a 4 yr old grandniece & twin 9 mth old grandniece & nephew in Henderson ; my "younger than me" stepmother, widowed, owns a home in Vegas that flipped from $226 to $120k...she's out of state now, renting the house out at $400 LESS than the monthly mortgage.
    I called her, as a property owner the proposal more directly affected her pocketbook than my liberal mindset.
    Before I finished reading the proposal to her, she invited me to please vote yes; that as a childless 23 yr.Vegas resident she KNEW the schools were deplorable AND THE TAX WAS NECESSARY.
    P.S. we're ALL Democrats.

  15. Question 2 failed because of the inept Administration and School Board that has been putting politics and dirty tricks over the education of our children. The CCSD has been at WAR with the Teacher's Union, playing layoff games and lying to the public. When I see these games I vote appropriately. Why would the tax payers of Clark County reward these doofus's with money when that frees up other money so they can fight against the best interests of our children?
    This defeat has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with the failure of Jones and the CCSD Board.

  16. I think the problem with the CCSD schools isn't the condition of the buildings, but what is going on inside them. No amount of tax money will fix that problem. It also won't get parents more involved with their children's education.

  17. I cant believe they had the bells to try and put more taxes on the poor and middle class. Myself I would of voted for this, and so would a lot of others if big business in this state, casinos, Mines and more would of stepped up to the plate and payed more taxes, but they refused. Tax the folks raping the State then you will get more people willing to pitch in. While your at it, break up Clark County School district, and dump millions in bloated salaries and put it back in the schools

  18. Obviously, voters didn't defeat the much-needed revenue for school maintenance, NPRI did. Why do they care and who do they represent? The antagonists in a war on public education warrant scrutiny.

    It's ironic that voters feel overtaxed, even as we funnel more energy and resources toward business growth by extending a menu full of generous tax breaks and incentives to new, as well as existing businesses. Every year the list of taxpayer-funded shopping centers, sports arenas, tourist venues and private corporations grows, typically with little input from the public. Nevadans seem to believe that schools don't need another taxpayer penny, but businesses do. It reveals the business-centric hollowness of soul that impedes this state.

  19. Doesn't anybody, especially in the school administration, see this as a sign to stop wasting money on the inept administration and put the money where its needed. Like into the buildings, teachers and for the kids. Instead of fixing the issues they see will it as "the voters just hate public schools" and "it's just the economy", we will just try again later.

  20. It used to be that the casino industry paid for most of the public expenses. Back when the mob ran the casinos. Now that a new form of mob has taken over, they don't want to pay for anything.

  21. Don't worry. Uncle Harry will go to the Messiah and get some federal $$ so we'll end up paying through the nose for it one way or another.

  22. There is and always has been plenty of money for CCSD. The problem is they are MASSIVE WASTERS of this money.
    Too many administrators, counselors, aides, psychics, coaches, baby sitters, nose blowers, trips, conferences, etc., etc.. an endless list of funds that do not go to education or maintenance.

    GET EFFICIENT CCSD....NO NEW TAXES.

  23. Give it more time. We'll get more people registered to vote and ensure that Nevada remains permanently Blue.

  24. This Bill failed because the Taxpayers read thru the lies the School Board used to present their case. First, they wanted over a Billion dollars. When that didn't work, they threw 600 million up against the wall and hoped it would stick. Next, there was no guarantee that this money wouldn't be touched if Union demands went to arbitration. The normal maintenance and repair dollars have been reduced over time because they were taken for salaries. The Taxpayer have read the lies and voted correctly.

  25. most common people in las vegas do not seem to value education. that being said, the ADULTS running the school system do have a history of being inept. information sharing will happen; the loyalties of the CHILDREN will be with those who weren't dicks.

  26. @ Bob realist: Actually I am surprised it didn't pass. I mean this stae is so Demcratic and they are all about government funding education, yes it was a surprise. Of course that would mean higher taxes. Don't think anyone wants that.

  27. chuck333,

    I don't think Nevadans in general mind paying taxes for services received, but the services received MUST represent a fair value for what is paid.

    CCSD (and all of the associated unions) have demonstrated time and again that they are not good stewards of our tax money.

  28. why don't we fire the "superintendent of community and government relations" and 100 of the other do nothing administrators in this HUGE over bloated titanic and use the savings to fix the schools and hire some teachers instead of "administrators" who send emails and memo's to each other all day.

  29. It's not the home owner's fault the government can't manage money.

    I voted NO and I'll do it again.

  30. @Sgt Rock. SCOTUS has said that public schools MUST educate any student who enrolls regardless of immigration status.

    Would you be refering to the recent refusal of CCEA to sign off on a grant application that they had no input on? Would that be the grant that would have awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a Colorado firm without competetive bidding, and now must be put out to bid? Would that be the stunt that got CCSD to agree to set up councils at each school to determine how to spend the grant funds to best assist the students at that school. Would that be the stunt that got CCSD to agree to establish a district council to help avoid problems like that from happening again? Would that be the stunt that had Sandoval agree that education is underfunded in Nevada, and to work to increase funding? Yeah, that was quite a stunt alright.

  31. @boftx. I thought the CCSD budget was proposed by the CCSD administration, and approved by the School Trustees. Please explain to me what money is controlled by any of the CCSD unions. As a teacher, I have no budget. Anything I want for my department or classroom must be approved by the building administrator.

  32. This proposal failed because it was a poor attempt by the district to raise revenue. It was a crappy band aid at best. It seems to be quite a large sum for the small amount of schools it would serve and we all know no tax is temporary. Why would anyone vote for it? CCSD has alienated the community and most of all it's employees who they failed to remember are voters as well. Employees whose salaries they want to cut. Who would want to have their salary cut and their taxes increased?

    This school district has a bloated and overpaid administration. They say they are broke and yet they hire a new PR woman for over $125,000 a year last year. All she does is trash teachers to the public. They hired several hundred new teachers this year, yet they are "broke". They upgraded their digital grade books to an online system that is terrible and yet they are "broke". They are also using a new Discovery Education program this year. Yet they claim they are broke? How much does all that cost?

    All they do is lie and waste money and yet they want the public to trust them with more money? Sadly this will continue as long as Dwight Jones is around. The school board is no better and some of the worst members were re-elected. Unfortunately their opponents weren't much better.

    As far as the Union blocking the Race To the Top funding I suggest that you begin to do some research on Race to the Top and learn how flawed it is. It is no better than No Child Left Behind. Part of the reason education is so bad in many parts of this country and this county is because educational policy is being dictated by people who haven't been in a classroom in years or who have never worked in a classroom. The requirements for RTTT are ridiculous and wasteful and the district wanted to proceed with no input from it's teachers. That is all the Union requested and as soon as there was collaboration they signed off on it. Several other unions around the country also refused to sign off on their district's RTTT application because of all the problems with it. It was not a stunt.

  33. And the "think" tank of NPRI is a joke. Like ALEC and Students First and all the rest of the organizations that claim they put the interest of students and the public taxpayer above all the rest. They are good buddies with CCSD when it suits them, yet how easily they turn when it doesn't suit them. I'd like to see a full list of their donors. I'm sure it would be very revealing.

  34. Tanker1975,

    I said "unions," not "union members" for a reason. I meant that to mean the union leadership and/or officials. It is my impression that the leadership of the various unions associated with CCSD do not have the interests of their members, and certainly not the benefit of the children, as their top priority.

    In actual fact, I voted for the measure after a long wrestling match with myself. I detest having done so, but I have never voted against a school bond and some core part of me continues to hope that this money would actually go to benefit our children.

    I believe that our society is utterly dependent upon having an educated population and no one can say they do not benefit from providing public education to the next generation of voters. That said, I can't shake the feeling that I have voted for beach front property on the Strip.

  35. Tanker1975 'The CCSD website has two phone directories on line. One is a school directory and the other is a directory of the administrative offices in CCSD. I used both of those directories and the Transparent Nevada salary and benefit data for CCSD from 2011. This was the latest year that data was available. I feel that the salaries and benefits for 2012 would be at least equal to the 2011 figures, if not slightly higher.'

    Tanker1975, is the data on the transparent Nevada correct for 2011? One teacher yesterday stated she made $30K which is 36% of salary + benefits listed for her on the transparent Nevada website. Is the transparent Nevada data fairly accurate?

  36. @BoliBlingBling. The data on Transparent Nevada is based on the information CCSD provides. CCSD has nothing to gain by overstating administrators salary and benefits packages. It may be more likely that they are understated, rather than overstated. Why would CCSD report that the two highest paid secretaries in CCSD work for the Superintendent, with one making over 143K with salary, overtime and benefits. The other makes over 98K with salary, overtime and benefits? I trust the information.

  37. Mr. Gardner:

    It was stated $30,000 LESS than $80,000 - meaning just over $50,000. Please look at the post again. And, It was about base pay, without benefits.

  38. @boftx. I would suggest you reread my post of Nov 7, 9:14PM. That was the CCEA leadership who achieved those things. Not one thing they asked for benefits union members. It was all about getting the money and programs to benefit the kids who need it most, and by getting Sandoval to agree that education is underfunded, they are helping every student in Nevada, not just CCSD.

    Government 101. All governments, including CCSD have two pots of money that they use. The first is operating funds, which are only used to pay salaries, utilities, the costs needed to keep things going on a daily basis. This money is NOT supposed to be used to pay for major building upgrades or new construction. The second is the capital fund. This is the money that is used for major renovations of buildings and new construction. The bond issue that failed was for the capital fund, not operating funds. By law, it could NOT have been used for salaries, utilities, etc.