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CCSD leaders call out state for lack of investment in education

Updated November 18, 2022 - 7:25 am

On the heels of a push by Nevada legislators to audit its finances, Clark County School District leaders Thursday presented the district’s own independent audit, all while calling out the state for its lack of investment in public education.

Earlier this year, Democratic lawmakers said they would pursue an audit of the district’s finances during the next legislative session after hearing concerns from members of the public about issues with various aspects of the district’s operations.

The Legislature, which meets once every two years, will reconvene on Feb. 6.

But on Thursday, Superintendent Jesus Jara called out “distractions” and the state’s lack of investment in public education.

“Is it a distraction or is it a real investment in K-12 education for our children?” Jara said. “I think that is the conversation that we need to have and the value that this state places on our students.”

An audit of the district’s finances, conducted by independent auditing firm Eide Bailly, was presented to school board trustees in a joint meeting with the district’s Audit Advisory Committee on Thursday.

Tamara Miramontes, a partner at Eide Bailly, said the district’s financial statements were accurate and reliable and that there had been no “material weaknesses or significant deficiencies” identified in the district’s internal reporting.

Jason Goudie, the district’s chief financial officer, said the district’s unassigned fund balance, or the reserves of money that are typically used when the district experiences revenue shortfalls or additional expenditures, had increased from approximately $6.6 million in 2017 to $113 million.

“That is a step in the right direction,” Goudie said.

While the audit reviewed whether the district was in compliance with state and district regulations, it did not account for efficiency or how the district can be more fiscally responsible, Miramontes said.

When asked how a legislative audit might differ from the independent audit presented to the district Thursday, Goudie said legislative audits can ultimately take any form that lawmakers want it to, including by assessing various district operational components such as transportation or food services.

But Goudie also said that if legislators are calling for an audit of school districts, audits should apply to all districts in the state.

“I’m not sure why we continue to be siloed out each time,” he said. “I think we’ve shown, as I mentioned before, over the last five years the level of financial stability that we’ve created with not significant funding.”

Clark County has not received a legislative audit since 2004, and a new audit would allow lawmakers to better answer questions from constituents about the district’s finances, Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton said at the time that legislators announced their intent to audit the district.

But Trustee Evelyn Garcia Morales reiterated that the district — which is the largest employer in Nevada and the fifth-largest district in the country — does not receive the proper resources to fund public education for its students.

“It reminds me of how much we do with so little,” she said.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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