School leaders get specific with mandated budget cuts

The Clark County School District now knows the exact size of the budget reduction it faces for 2008 because of shortfalls in projected state revenue: $17.04 million.

Superintendent Walt Rulffes shared that number with school board members Thursday as he outlined the contents of a new letter from the state Department of Education.

It appears that the choices for what to cut have been largely made, Rulffes said. The new figures for district reductions are based on the deferment of state one-shot funding for full-day kindergarten, empowerment schools, remediation and other special programs. That totals $22.4 million for fiscal year 2008.

“That certainly takes away our options,” Rulffes said.

School board members continued to question the legitimacy of the cuts called for by Gov. Jim Gibbons. Public schools across Nevada are being asked to absorb a total of $47.6 million in state funding reductions for fiscal year 2008 and $45.1 million in fiscal year 2009.

The district already is working to identify where to cut back. On Tuesday, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said the district was postponing full implementation of the Enterprise Resource Planning system, a technology system intended to unify the functions of district administration.

ERP is already in use by personnel in finance and purchasing. However, human resources, payroll and teacher recruitment staff will have to wait to come on line until money is available to complete the project. About $12 million has been earmarked for ERP in the 2008 budget, but roughly half of that already has been spent.

Rulffes said Thursday that other cuts have not yet been decided on.

School board members also discussed a possible legal challenge of the governor’s action, an idea that’s already been discussed by legislators.

“I think it would be appropriate to have a discussion about a lawsuit in a closed meeting,” district general counsel Bill Hoffman said in response to questions.

Hoffman said his office has researched the issue, but he added that it would be better to discuss it in a setting that preserves attorney-client privilege.

This is only the first round of cuts, Rulffes cautioned. The state has yet to notify the district of how much it will have to absorb in 2009.


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