Deja vu: Clark County schools face $60M-plus budget deficit

For the second year in a row, the Clark County School District will have to close a budget deficit of more than $60 million, and schools will bear the brunt of the cost-cutting.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky announced the $68 million deficit Monday in a memo directing school principals to reopen their strategic budgets for the 2018-19 school year and cut a total of $47 million. Central offices will decrease budgets by the remaining $21 million.

“This is an unfortunate situation which could result in a reduction in force and a special late spring surplus for the employee groups,” Skorkowsky wrote. “We know this is a challenging time and we appreciate your efforts as we work to improve the overall financial stability of the district.”

Schools will have wide latitude in deciding where to make cuts and will be asked to cut based on how many students they have enrolled, said spokeswoman Kirsten Searer. Elementary schools will cut $132 per student, middle schools $153 per student and high schools $184 per student.

The district is asking principals to work with their school organizational teams to make the reductions and have the adjusted budgets back to the district on May 16.

Last year’s budget woes began in July, when the district first announced a $34.5 million deficit, which ultimately grew to about $60 million. The board made the last round of cuts in December.

The district said the cuts are necessitated by adverse arbitration rulings and a decision by a local labor relations board that went against it.

In April, an arbitrator ruled that the district must pay for increased benefits for licensed personnel as part of the teacher contract for both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 years. The district estimates that this is contributing the bulk of the deficit, at $51 million. School officials are asking the District Court to vacate that decision, although the court has not yet taken up the matter.

“We anticipate it could take as long as a year to receive a decision on the motion to vacate the arbitration decision, and it’s fiscally prudent to plan for all scenarios,” Searer said. “In the case we do win the decision, we will review the financial needs of the district at that point in time and utilize the funds to meet those needs, which could include pay increases for all employees.”

Last week, another arbitrator ruled that the district must disburse retroactive pay for teachers who earned advanced degrees in the 2015-16 academic year. That ruling will cost $3 million, the district estimates.

Implementation of the professional growth system under a ruling handed down by a county labor relations board in July makes up the remaining $14 million of the $68 million.

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

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