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Parents ask CCSD trustees to avoid budget cuts to special education

Updated August 10, 2017 - 11:08 pm

Parents of special education children issued a heartfelt plea to the Clark County School Board on Thursday night to avoid any cuts to special education in this year’s budget.

Concern grew among parents after they heard rumors of potential cuts to the KIDS program, which is for children with autism. Their requests come as the district faces an estimated $45 million deficit for fiscal year 2018.

Parent Julie Ostrovsky said she grew concerned after she heard of possible cuts in classroom aides and technology.

“As soon as you cut back that support staff, you’re dealing with safety issues,” she told the board. “It can be a danger to those students, to other staff and to those in school.”

Stephanie Hill, whose son is in the KIDS program, tearfully presented him as a success story and reason not to slash money.

“The first love of his life is not his mama — it is his KIDS program teacher,” she said. “I give her all credit.”

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky apologized for lack of proper communication to trustees about finances, particularly the fact that the district’s ending fund balance for 2017 came in at less than 1.75 percent of general fund revenue.

That announcement in July caught trustees off guard.

“You should never be surprised in a public meeting, and I take responsibility for that,” he told the board.

But there was still a strong undercurrent of finger-blaming. A timeline presented to the board showed a lapse of a few days before Chief Operating Officer Rick Neal told Skorkowsky of the lower ending fund balance.

“There are some serious failures here,” Trustee Chris Garvey said. “Not only failure to communicate to you, but also failure to communicate to the trustees.”

Neal already publicly took responsibility for not alerting trustees sooner.

Yet the shortfall in the ending fund balance — money that is not reserved for any particular use — and the attempt to get it back up to 1.75 percent is only part of the reason for the current deficit.

CFO Jason Goudie said part of the reason is the district’s use of attrition: money that is available from unfilled staffing positions. Typically, the district has used that money to cover other costs.

Any money from attrition rolls over from one year to the next, Goudie said after the meeting. Yet with other unexpected revenues, that money was all used up in 2017.

“The money is spent, and we don’t currently estimate any excess,” he told the board earlier. “And that is why we’re in this position.”

The district is still figuring out a way to cut the estimated $45 million. Meanwhile, the district has proposed salary freezes to the teachers union in current contract talks.

“You guys have given us teachers a bad name in our local community,” teacher Laura Bell said in protest of freezes. “Here we are again, fighting for a chance to get our contract honored. We’re fighting off the ability to feed our families and pay our bills.”

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

 

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