School district budget tops $2 billion

The Clark County School District’s general fund budget for the upcoming year will exceed $2 billion for the first time.

"It represents the tremendous growth in the Clark County School District," Superintendent Walt Rulffes said.

The School Board voted 5-0 Wednesday in support of a tentative $2.14 billion budget for the 2007-08 school year.

That is almost 10 percent more than the current $1.95 billion budget.

The 51-year-old school system is one of the fastest growing in the nation, and its estimated enrollment of approximately 303,000 makes it the fifth-largest school district in the United States.

But the growth of the general fund budget exceeds that of the student population for the past five school years.

During that time, the budget has grown by an average of 10.7 percent annually, more than double the average annual growth of 4.2 percent for the student population.

About 85 percent of the general fund’s budget is used to pay for salaries and benefits of the 35,000 school system employees

Rulffes and other district officials said the budget is tentative and will be revised after the legislative session ends.

State politicians are expected to finalize funding for the district’s next two school years in less than three weeks.

The district’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said while "two billion dollars is a huge amount, when you break it down on a per-student basis, it’s $6,600 per student."

The district expects to receive about $4,891 per student from the state, which is the least for any school district in the state, district officials said.

About $1,700 more will be allocated per student from local property tax revenues, Weiler said.

The school district also will receive about $650 per student from federal and state grants, and that money is not in the school system’s general fund.

The district also allocated $2.5 million in what Rulffes said is "contingency money" to operate an additional four empowerment schools next year.

The district has four "empowered" elementary schools, Adams, Antonello, Culley and Warren, where principals and teachers have more leeway in making decisions about programs and school budgets.

Those schools receive about $600 more per student than a traditional elementary school.

The schools have a longer class day by 29 minutes and a longer school year by five days.

The new empowerment schools for next school year have not been selected yet.

Rulffes said the Legislature will need to provide at least partial funding for the empowerment schools program to allow Clark County to add four more schools.

"If there is capacity to handle the four additional schools, we will," Rulffes said. "If not, we’ll have to reconsider."

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