Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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CCSD wants marijuana money to help pay for teacher raises

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Leila Navidi

Teachers rally during a protest organized by the Clark County Education Association on Monday, June 11, 2012, outside the Clark County School District Administration building on West Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas.

Leaders in the Clark County School District are calling for millions of dollars in anticipated teacher raises to be paid for by higher-than-expected tax revenue from the state’s legal recreational marijuana program.

After losing an arbitration ruling this month for $51.5 million in salary and health care benefits, CCSD trustees are asking for more than $26 million from a 10 percent excise tax on recreational sales since last July 1 to help cover the deficit. The excise tax is different from the 15 percent wholesale tax, which already allocates a large percentage to schools.

The excise tax was originally pegged for the state’s Distributive School Account but was ultimately delegated to the state’s Rainy Day Fund by the 2017 Nevada Legislature. District officials, Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom and Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian have expressed desires to change that allocation.

A special legislative session would be needed to access the Rainy Day funds before the start of biennial 2019 Nevada Legislature begins in February of next year. In Nevada, a special session requires approval of either the governor or two-thirds of the Legislature. The Governor's Office could also submit a request to the State Board of Examiners to transfer the rainy day funds to the state's General Fund or access the funds by declaring a fiscal emergency.

“The need is there,” Segerblom said. “And obviously the schools want it.”

Most of the $15.5 million raised by a 15 percent wholesale tax through the first eight months of recreational sales will be doled out to the Distributive School Account, said Stephanie Klapstein, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Taxation. A small percentage will be used to pay for state regulation enforcement and staffing for the new industry.

That money is distributed once per fiscal year, Klapstein said, and will be given to school districts in August. She estimated as much as $20 million of the $25 million estimated wholesale tax collection by June would be distributed to schools.

But CCSD Trustee Linda Young said more pot money is needed to help pay for the school district’s 40,000 employees, which accounts for about 88 percent of the school district’s annual budget.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s spokeswoman Mary Kinner said there are “no plans” to call a special session before his term ends in January. Segerblom said he doubted anything to open the Rainy Day Fund would be scheduled before the next legislative session.