Even as state lawmakers face blowback over their support for historic tax hikes to pay for public education reforms, most candidates running for the District A seat on the Clark County School Board would consider raising taxes even higher to fund their priorities.
Incumbent Deanna Wright, who seeks a third and final term as school trustee, supports “fixing” local property tax caps so that commercial and residential property owners would fork over more money for the Clark County School District.
With a budget of $2.2 billion for the 2016-17 school year, the district faces a virtual freeze in property tax collections thanks to a decade-old law that restricts tax increases based on a complicated formula.
“All of the sudden there’s these people who have to pay nothing. That’s what’s killing us,” Wright said.
“I don’t want property tax to rise 175 percent every year, but there should be something every year so the bottom doesn’t fall out of the tax structure,” she added.
Wright faces five challengers for her seat.
A change in state election rules would allow any of the six candidates to claim an early victory and avoid a general election should they secure 50 percent plus one vote of all ballots cast in the primary.
If no single candidate receives a majority, the top two candidates face off in the general election.
Mallory Levins, a college access coordinator at UNLV, and Richard Vaughan, who retired as a teacher from the district last year, also included adjusting the property tax caps on a list of potential budget solutions should either win their bid to oust and replace Wright. Vaughan said that would be the “absolute last thing” he considers, however.
Lifting the tax caps would require approval from the Nevada Legislature — a tall order as anti-tax sentiment appears to be growing among voters.
“The state is so business-friendly that it’s destroying the education system,” said Krajcech, a former school counselor with the district.
If elected, she promised to “absolutely” lobby for increases in mining, gaming, visitor, live entertainment and other tax rates.
“We need a more stable tax base for education,” Krajcech said. “Fighting over money every year is absolutely a waste of time.”
Her priorities include reducing student testing, increasing teacher retention, building school morale and improving training for campus administrators.
Wright listed a new program for English language learners, changes to the district’s homework policy and a transition to more flexible budgeting for principals among the successes achieved during her time on the board. She also credited trustees with persuading the state to expand pre-kindergarten, career and technical education and more.
“We’re the ones who carried the banner with educators in this community,” Wright added. “We need to continue monitoring and advocating for more funding.”
Her opponents, however, described a less than rosy record of success for the sitting board.
Levins, a school district graduate, criticized trustees for not making enough progress on updating the district’s sex education curriculum or its lack of a policy to accommodate transgender students.
Wright “has been a very vocal advocate for sex education reform, but she hasn’t consistently voted for those improvements in the curriculum,” Levins said.
She also plans to focus on increasing access to college for all students, with the hopes that high school graduation rates will improve at the same time.
As for the district’s chronic teacher shortage, Levins would propose creating a “career pathway” for teachers to remain in the classroom without having to move into administration to progress in their field.
Vaughan, who for several decades taught in Henderson schools, wants to serve on a school board that provides a better starting salary for teachers and helps them pay for retirement and health care benefits.
“If you’re a new teacher, would you want to come to Nevada, where you’ve heard they freeze pay every year?” he said. “Even though there’s a new union contract, CCSD delays paying that raise for as long as (it) can.
“I don’t think the state’s going to give us more money, at least right now,” Vaughan added. “So we need to be pretty creative about where we save money.”
He also suggested if teachers strike, which state law forbids them from doing, that “could get the Legislature listening.”
Two other candidates for the District A seat — Shawn Mueller, a manager at AT&T, and James Gartside — did not respond to multiple interview requests.
Contact Neal Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279. Follow @nealtmorton on Twitter.
Occupation: Retired school counselor
Occupation: College access coordinator
Occupation: Retired schoolteacher
Occupation: Not employed