Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2017

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Nevada Territory

School district warns of consequences if state redirects bond money

Clark County School District officials protested Gov. Brian Sandoval's plan to redirect money for school construction and maintenance, warning that the proposal would require the school district to refinance bonds, increasing long-term costs, or be forced to raise property taxes in order to repay its debt.

Jeff Weiler, chief financial officer of the Clark County School District, told the Legislature's committee reviewing the budget that the district needs the $411 million it has to repay debt service on money raised for capital projects over the next five to seven years.

He was unable to estimate how much money it would cost the district to restructure its debt.

The Sandoval administration proposed sweeping a total of $425 million in funds from 12 school districts across the state and transfer it to schools operating costs, according to the budget Sandoval released on Monday. About $300 million of that would come from Clark County, and put into that district's schools.

Weiler said there has been a misunderstanding between the school district and Sandoval's administration about whether the district would need to refinance the debt anyway.

Sandoval's budget balanced without raising taxes, but did shift some resources around to lessen cuts. Sandoval's cut to K-12 schools of over 9 percent assumed that capital money could be transferred to operating costs.

To do that, Sandoval's administration proposed lowering the amount of cash reserves school districts would be required to maintain, from 12 months of reserves to six months. Budget director Andrew Clinger maintained that Clark County School District said it would not be able to maintain a reserve of 12 months, even if the state didn’t take any money.

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, said that the administration had been told by Clark County that it would have to restructure its debt anyway.

Regardless of additional costs, though, he said "it's still more important to get that money to children in the classrooms" than having that money for maintenance.

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