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School Board OKs $43M in cuts to balance budget

Updated August 24, 2017 - 10:13 pm

Cuts to special education, summer schools and student services will hit students in the Clark County School District as it battles with a deficit for this school year that continues to grow to an estimated $50 million to $60 million.

The School Board voted 4-2 to approve roughly $43.3 million in cuts on Thursday, a decision that carried strong resentment toward the state Legislature and the way education funding is distributed across Nevada.

“I’m still going to continue to articulate our issues and let people out there know they’re going to have to do the right thing for education here in Nevada, particularly Southern Nevada,” Trustee Linda Young told parents and others who came out to protest cuts. “I hope you’ll join (me) in speaking up.”

Central office reductions comprise $11.8 million — or 27 percent — of the total cuts, while schools and direct school services comprise the remaining 73 percent.

That proportion reflects the funding split between schools and central office required by state law, under the new school empowerment model.

Schools now must identify roughly $17.4 million in cuts to their individual strategic budgets — meaning the number and types of positions that may be cut in classrooms is still unclear.

District employees still called on trustees to shed costs in the central office or among administrators.

“All of these people are just not needed,” said Terri Shuman, a support staff member. “Jobs and responsibilities can be combined for a reduction in force … hundreds of support staff positions could be saved.”

Matt Caldwell, president of the Police Officers Association, said security resources are already stretched thin. He mentioned the recent stabbing at Thurman White Middle School.

But the district’s police department now must come up with $975,000 in cuts — which would mean losing 11 officers, Caldwell said.

“A cut to the police budget would mean reduced services,” he said. “If officers were terminated as a result of the budget cut, it would take years to rehire and train replacements.”

Trustees Chris Garvey and Kevin Child voted against the recommendation, arguing for deeper information. The board vote still authorized Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky to make cuts in positions.

“I have concerns that we are talking about reduction in force, as necessary, with very little detail,” Garvey said. “Also, the timing of this is extremely bad.”

The budget shortfall stemmed from a variety of factors — including state funds that came in lower than expected, and an arbitration award for the administrators union.

Chief Financial Officer Jason Goudie has stressed that the shortfall is still just an estimate, as financial numbers from fiscal year 2017 have not yet been finalized.

The new budget task force will continue to identify and suggest cuts to cover the rest of the estimated deficit. But the board must make decisions quickly, as the deficit can continue to grow while the district operates on money that it does not have.

“We are all accountable,” Young told members of the public, urging them to speak with state legislators. “You have a voice like I have a voice. Yes, it’s part of our responsibility, yes, but it’s part of your responsibility too — you have a representative out there, wherever you are.”

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

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