It's not about what education programs to cut, parents and employees told Clark County School District officials Tuesday night.
Raising taxes should be considered as the system confronts an anticipated 2011-12 budget shortfall of up to $400 million, some said.
"I don't want anything cut," said parent Joe Hardin at Chaparral High School during a town hall meeting, one of four held Tuesday across the district. "I've talked with a lot of parents who don't really mind paying a little extra to keep the school district as it is."
Officials say the district faces a funding shortfall of $250 million to $400 million, an estimate based on proposed cuts in state aid and declining revenue from local property and sales taxes.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has vowed not to raise taxes, has proposed reducing state support to public education by 9 percent, or more than $200 million, in the state's 2011-13 budget.
Karen Jefferson, a district bus driver, drew big applause from Chaparral's crowd of more than 100 people when she suggested where to get additional funding for schools.
"We should not have to make any cuts," Jefferson said. "Each casino should have to pay a certain amount for education."
Some speakers suggested increasing taxes on the mining industry or starting a state lottery specifically to support education. Others noted that room tax revenue earmarked for education should not be diverted to the state's general fund as Sandoval has suggested.
Because of the prolonged economic downturn, the school district has endured $375 million in budget cuts since 2007.
On a district budget survey on possible new cuts for 2011-12, the district offers unpopular options such as increasing class sizes, cutting all sports programs and eliminating librarians and English Language Learner specialists.
The magnitude of the cuts made parent Armando Mendoza feel as if he was being asked to choose "which one of your three kids you don't want to have an education. Please pick one." Superintendent Dwight Jones acknowledged that parents were "pretty nervous about what $400 million in cuts could mean for the school district."
"All ideas are being shared with (lawmakers in) Carson City," Jones said. "It's good they're putting it on the table."
In addition to the meeting at Chaparral in the southeast, the district held gatherings at Cimarron-Memorial High School in the northwest, Mojave High School in North Las Vegas and Sierra Vista High School in the southwest.
School officials said some speakers at the Mojave meeting spoke out against the option of increasing taxes to avoid program cuts.
Clark County School Board member Chris Garvey said there was recognition among Mojave speakers that cuts would be made. They wanted to look at ways of minimizing that, she said.
Revenue shortfalls aren't the only thing threatening district coffers. District officials also oppose a proposal by the governor to transfer $300 million from the school district's capital debt service reserves to its operating budget over the next two years. The district would be in danger of defaulting on its debt payments and would have to raise local property taxes to avoid that, officials have said.
The School Board will discuss the community input from the town hall meetings and the results of a budget survey during a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Western High School, 4601 W. Bonanza Road, near Decatur Boulevard.
As in past years, some meeting speakers asked that district administration be cut before reducing classroom resources. Dan Swenson, a librarian at O'Callaghan Middle School in the northeast, said if there must be cuts, the priority should be to "cut at the top, not the bottom."
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-374-7917.