School Board sees slight benefits in looking at budget for 2013-14

Next school year stands to be less stressed as Clark County School District’s budget may grow by $99 million despite sequestration cutting $14.2 million in federal funding

Average class sizes, which now stand at a high of 38 students in middle and high school, would be reduced by three students because of a planned addition of 793 more teachers this summer.

Special education staffing and the number of elementary school assistant principals would be increased. New buses and student computers also may be bought, according to the district’s tentative budget.

The 2013-14 plan is based on many optimistic hypotheticals and taking on $34 million in bond debt to be paid back over a decade.

District officials drafted the budget assuming the Legislature will approve Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget as proposed, providing the district with $56.4 million more in per-student funds and an unknown increase of other funds for early education and students needing help learning English.

On top of that, about $8 million of the increase would be in per-student funding to cover the 1,562 more students expected next year, so it’s not a true funding increase.

Even if it plays out as planned, School Board member Erin Cranor was adamant that the money isn’t being put in the right places. Too much is still being spent outside schools, she said.

She requested that district staff put together a report detailing the increase in central office positions over the past few years and the cost of these positions, also providing changes in school-based and transportation staffing.

A preliminary report shows that the district — the largest employer in Clark County — has lost 632 of its full-time workers in the past two school years.

But Superintendent Dwight Jones created 33 central office positions and 1,200 transportation positions in that time while cutting 809 school-based positions of teachers, school administrators and support staff. Jones resigned March 22.

“We need to get rid of some weeds that have plagued this organization for a long time,” said Cranor, who cast the only vote against the tentative budget. Board member Chris Garvey was absent for the vote.

Board President Carolyn Edwards held up a similar goal, wanting to get the average class size below 30 students in grades four through 12.

But even if all goes as planned and the $99 million in extra funds comes in, the budget would decrease average class sizes only to 35 students in middle and high schools and 31 students in fourth and fifth grades.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279