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Nevada official says CCSD can’t blame budget deficit on state

Nevada’s top education official took issue Thursday with Clark County school officials’ assertion that part of the district’s budget deficit was caused by declines in state funding, pinning the blame on poor planning on the district’s part.

“To blame the state is erroneous here,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero said an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I’m just pointing out that the math doesn’t add up and the focal point of their narrative is disingenuous at best.”

Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky responded that the district is not blaming the state for its budget predicament.

“We have to work together to not cast stones,” he said. “I understand that we had expenditures and estimations that were off from what the state had. We’re going back and looking at legislative bills to see where the disconnect is because it’s important to get to the bottom. That’s not the biggest issue, though. Blame is not where we’re at.”

Layoffs ahead

The statements came a day after the district announced a hiring freeze, saying total budget cuts this year could reach $70 million to $80 million. The announcement came in a memo from Skorkowsky and Chief Financial Officer Jason Goudie that said widespread layoffs are expected.

“We anticipate a reduction in force in October 2017 and … it is likely that almost every department and school will be affected,” it said.

The Clark County School Board has already given Skorkowsky permission to initiate layoffs — or a reduction in force — as necessary, but it is still unclear how many positions could be cut. Senior school district officials were told to trim $11.8 million from central services and individual schools will have to reduce their strategic budgets by $17.4 million in the first stage of the cutting.

Local officials have said lower-than-expected funding for a special education contingency fund and full-day kindergarten are contributing to the deficit. They also said per-pupil revenue was less than anticipated.

‘A management problem’

But Canavero said the district should have anticipated that those funds wouldn’t match their expectations. In any case, he said, they don’t account for the majority of the district’s deficit, currently estimated to be $50 million to $60 million.

“This isn’t a revenue problem. It’s a management problem. They’ve got their dollars, and they’ve got to live within that budget,” he said.

Canavero said the district is using the same political playbook as previous years, citing statements made in 2011 and 2015 when the district was dealing with budget deficits.

“It’s a wonderful narrative to blame the state. It seems to pop up every cycle,” he said.

Officials with the Clark County teachers union echoed Canavero’s concerns in a statement, saying district officials knew in June exactly how much money they were getting from the state.

“It’s unacceptable for CCSD to play politics with the livelihoods of over 18,000 education professionals that directly impact over 320,000 students. It’s unacceptable for CCSD to scare the public and educators with such a cavalier approach to budgeting,” union officials said in a statement.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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