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Another Clark County school miscue, but this one may be good news

Budget cutting at individual Clark County schools was halted Monday by an accounting error by the central office.

But a district official described the latest budget miscue as good news, saying the schools were mistakenly asked to cut too deeply.

Clark County School District principals were told Monday how much they would need to cut from their individual school budgets to help erase a districtwide deficit estimated at up to $70 million. The school-level cuts, which were due to be completed by the end of the week, included the cost of current and retroactive raises for administrators mandated by an arbitration award in May.

But the district halted the process after discovering that it had overcharged each school by factoring the cost of current fiscal year 2018 raises twice, said Deputy Superintendent Kim Wooden. That meant the deficit figures provided to each school were greater than they should have been.

“For the most part, schools should see fewer cuts coming from their budget,” Wooden said.

Wooden clarified an earlier memo from Chief Academic Officer Mike Barton sent to principals late Monday, which said the district may have not factored the retroactive administrative salary increases into average salary figures sent to principals Aug. 28.

In the memo, Barton recommended that schools stop work to cut their strategic budgets until they receive accurate information.

That had led to speculation that schools would need to make even greater cuts than they had been told.

Wooden said part of the problem was that staff had to input changes by hand. The district is working on getting new technology that will make such processes easier.

“Of course, we would expect some errors as we work out this process, and we hope that our principals and other staff will be patient with us as we work through these errors,” Wooden said. “We’ve got people working around the clock.”

Series of budget problems

The error is the latest in a series of budgeting miscues by the district, which is scrambling to make $70 million to $80 million in cuts.

The latest problem brought new calls for an audit.

“In our opinion, they have a deficit in financial management at the district,” said John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers. “There’s a moving target on what exactly is the deficit. It begs the question to have a third party come in and do an audit, and a forensic audit is something we would support as well.”

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who last month announced he will step down at the end of the current school year, said at the time that beleaguered Teachers Health Trust should open itself up to an audit as well.

Vellardita said that was a “bogus PR move” from the district.

“We’ve been in arbitration. We’ve clearly demonstrated in the arbitration hearings the financial situation of the trust, the so-called Retiree Health Trust money,” Vellardita said. “We think it’s a way to deflect criticism and oversight on what they’re doing right now with $2.4 billion (in) public dollars.”

The district advised schools to postpone their budget meetings until Monday, to ensure budgets are accurate for each school. But the district still expects to hold surplus meetings in October as planned. At the meetings, staff whose positions were cut will be able to look for vacant positions elsewhere.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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