No school construction expected for five years


Because of flat population growth, the Clark County School District does not foresee building new schools for at least the next three to five years.

But it still projects capital needs of $4.9 billion over 10 years for school maintenance, technology, equipment, and improving older schools to maintain equity with newer schools, officials said Wednesday.

The Clark County School Board is expected to decide by January whether to pursue a new bond program during the 2010 election cycle or defer it until 2012.

Because the board decided against presenting voters in 2008 with a bond program, the last big bond program to be approved by voters was in 1998.

Until a new authorization by voters, the district no longer can issue any new bonds that are financed through the school property tax, which is 0.5534 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The School Board would be asking the public to extend the same tax rate by 10 years or more.

But even if voters did not approve a new bond program, the same tax rate would remain in place through at least 2016 to generate enough income to pay down old bond debt, said Jeff Weiler, the district's chief financial officer.

School officials advocated a 2010 bond program as "a seamless transition" from the 1998 bond program, which generated $4.9 billion for the construction of 101 schools, but they said a 2012 bond program could put officials in a better planning position.

Because of the current uncertainty, district enrollment by 2019 could be anywhere between 340,000 and 420,000, according to board documents. Enrollment currently is about 309,000, down from 311,000 a year ago.

School Board member Carolyn Edwards believes growth is inevitable.

"We won't go 10 years without building a new school; I can guarantee that," said Edwards, who then paused before adding, "99 percent."

If the economic conditions don't improve, a new bond program's capacity for generating revenue will be diminished because of slow growth and declining property values, Weiler said.

He said income from the property tax is down by 3 percent this year and could be off as much as 10 percent next year.

Without a new bond fund, officials anticipate that staffing for capital projects will be reduced to 100 employees for 2011 and 50 by 2012. At its peak in 2007, there were 400 staffing positions for capital projects.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal.com or 702-374-7917.

 

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