School District needs $5.3 billion over next decade

About $5.3 billion is the latest tally of Clark County School District’s needs in maintaining equal educational environment for students over the next decade, according to a presentation by Superintendent Dwight Jones and department heads to the School Board on Wednesday.

However, the district doesn’t have the money and few options besides asking voters to pass a bond and pay more in property taxes.

"We need to be cautious," School Board member John Cole said. "This economy is like no environment this board has ever had to deal with. We’d be asking for a bond in a recessionary period."

The projects are by no means a wish list, said Jones, calling it the "reality of an immediate need."

About $216 million would go for nine new schools to alleviate the reliance on portable classrooms for 7,300 students. Another $3.4 billion would be used to replace nine schools averaging a half-century of use, renovate other aging schools, and replace aging electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. About $1.6 billion would be for technology and equipment.

Although the list is long, the list of funding options is short for the district, which doesn’t have taxing power and lacks a current bond. Its last bond stopped producing revenue a few years ago. The board discussed seeking another bond, likely running 20 years.

"If there are other options, I’d like to know what they are," said board member Carolyn Edwards, urging the superintendent and his staff to come up with options quickly. "We need to make a decision before time makes it for us."

If the district wants to bring a bond to voters in November, it must start planning in weeks to have it ready by the June ballot deadline.

A bond may not be the only option, said Jones, who said staff would provide options at the next meeting.

Even if voters would be receptive, the district has no bonding capacity, meaning its debt service is greater than its revenue, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said.

"In layman’s terms: Right now, we cannot issue bonds," he said.

And it’s worse than when Weiler announced the district’s multibillion-dollar needs in early December. He predicted at that time that the district wouldn’t have bonding capacity until 2017. That’s been changed to 2018 because of the latest property tax revenues showing a 9 percent drop this year.

That’s the total picture, Weiler said.

"Sadly, I wish it were brighter."

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at or 702-383-0279.

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