Rulffes says he might cut 1,000 school district jobs

CARSON CITY — The head of Nevada’s largest school district said Thursday he may have to reduce staffing by about 1,000 positions if lawmakers go along with Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed budget cuts.

At a Senate-Assembly subcommittee hearing on budget cuts to K-12 schools, Clark County School Superintendent Walt Rulffes said he hoped to make the staff reductions through attrition, and by keeping vacant approximately 300 currently unfilled positions.

Rulffes also said he would take a 10 percent pay cut “in the spirit of Las Vegas” if Gibbons followed suit, raising the stakes of the governor’s earlier promise to cut his salary by 6 percent.

“If he will take it, so will I,” Rulffes said.

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns, noting the governor earns about half the salary of the schools chief, said, “The whole proposal to reduce state employee pay is not a game. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke.”

“To make a joke like this in a jovial fashion is just disgraceful,” Burns added. “Why doesn’t the superintendent just lower his salary so it is equal to the governor’s?”

For the K-12 schools, the governor’s proposal would result in the state’s base per-pupil funding dropping from $5,098 this year to $4,945 next fiscal year. The per-pupil funding would increase by $1 in the second year of the budget cycle. Nevada is ranked 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending.

Under Gibbons’ plan, pay for all school employees would decrease by 6 percent, and cost-of-living increases would be eliminated.

Antoinette Cavanaugh, superintendent of the Elko County School District, said that two of her schools, where 80 percent of students are eligible for free lunch, rose from poor performance to high achieving in the past five years because of more funding for after-school programs and professional development. Both initiatives might be cut under the proposed budget.

Adult high school diploma programs also might see budget reductions based on declining enrollment, but lawmakers countered that in an economic downturn, people return to school, so enrollment might increase.

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