They come from some of the most well-known segments of Southern Nevada industry.
NV Energy. Station Casinos. Wells Fargo Bank.
A group of 13 corporate and community leaders who’ve never worked together as a whole.
But they’re gathering Wednesday for the first of many meetings this summer, digging into something many of them have never had a hand in, until now.
The Clark County School District.
It may not be a “business” like NV Energy or Station Casinos, but the School District has a $2.1 billion budget. It employs 39,000 workers, more than any entity in Nevada, according to the state.
The district needs to adopt “sound business practices” in deciding how it spends its immense but limited share of taxpayer resources, said Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who assembled this group to pick apart his budget.
The approach — zero-based budgeting — abandons the district’s usual approach of just tweaking the previous year’s budget. Every expense will be questioned, even well-established practices, he said.
Only those expenses mandated by federal and state government will be safe, Skorkowsky said in his April 21 State of the District address, announcing the panel of nondistrict personnel but revealing none of its members.
Every expense “has to be in support of our students in our classrooms. That will not be easy,” said Skorkowsky, noting that schools here operate on $7,582 per student, the lowest rate in the nation. “But you noticed I haven’t asked for new money, yet. Yet.”
He must first ensure the district is spending money wisely. Many argue it does not, including voters who — in a 2-1 decision — overwhelmingly refused the district’s request for a property-tax increase in 2012.
The panel, now finalized in its membership, will make recommendations on just how to fix the district’s spending practices. The question: Will the district enact their recommendations?
“People who are skeptical have a right to be,” said Brent Husson, president of Nevada Succeeds, a nonprofit advocate for education representing local businesses. “Governments tend to launch these good ideas and have them go nowhere.”
But Husson is also a member of the panel and, looking at those joining him, said, “It’s not a stunt. It’s the opposite. They’re getting serious people to do serious work.”
The other members volunteering their time are: Wells Fargo Bank Senior Vice President Denette Corrales; NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira; former Station Casinos CFO Glenn Christenson; Director of Public Policy and Analysis for Applied Analysis Michael Alastuey; Vice President of Community Development for United Way of Southern Nevada and former School Board member Terri Janison; retired district superintendents Walt Rulffes and Brian Cram; Executive Director of the Nevada College Collaborative within the Nevada System of Higher Education Frank Woodbeck; Henderson Chief Information Officer Laura Fucci; Vice President of InNEVation Adam Kramer; Vice Chairman of Government Affairs for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director of HighTower Las Vegas Hugh Anderson; and Bob Linden, owner of Shred-it Las Vegas.
Skorkowsky said he’ll task the group specifically with reviewing budgets of high-performing schools that spend relatively little money, low-performing schools with larger allocations, the district’s central office, and school-based programs purchased from a vendor.
“We’re going to look at programs, practices and people,” said Skorkowsky, who will review the panel’s findings and budgeting recommendations in September, looking at “very specific ticket items, big-ticket items.”
“If you’re going to spend money on some of these programs and consultants, they need to show they’re making an impact,” Janison said.
In December, the district’s implementation plan will be presented to the School Board, affecting the budget for the 2015-16 school year.
Christenson said he doesn’t yet know where the waste is occurring.
“I’ll be able to make that decision once I get in there,” said Christenson, who’s in agreement with the superintendent that the district can’t ask the Legislature for more money until Skorkowsky shows he’s “running his house effectively.”
This group can help the district get there, he said.
“These are some high-powered, very talented folks.”
Contact Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @TrevonMilliard.