School bond may appear on '08 ballot

Voters may be asked to approve a bond to pay for school maintenance. The amount of that bond has yet to be determined.

"The state of Nevada does not provide funding for school maintenance, period," said Holly Luna, director of business services for Douglas County School District.

Luna said Wednesday that all school maintenance projects exceeding $100,000 come from the district's capital improvement fund, which this year has suffered a loss and doesn't look good for the future.

According to Luna, in the fiscal year of 2006-07, the fund lost approximately $700,000 from a general decline in county building taxes. In 2005-06, building taxes added $900,000 to the fund, compared to $200,000 this year.

The decrease in building taxes is not the district's main concern.

Luna said most of the improvement fund comes from motor vehicle tax revenue the district is guaranteed because of outstanding bond payments. Under Nevada law, a school district with outstanding bond payments is allocated a certain amount of motor vehicle tax revenue for their capital improvement fund.

Luna said the district has outstanding bond payments that ensure this tax income. In 2005-06, the income accounted for $1.6 million of the fund's total $2.2 million. In 2006-07, it accounted for $1.2 million of $1.4 million, with the remaining $200,000 coming from building taxes.

The problem, Luna said, is that when existing bond payments expire in 2011, the district will lose this special tax revenue and be left with whatever revenue building taxes alone produce. She said that if 2011 is anything like this year, the district will receive only $200,000 for improvements, which, according to Luna, is grossly inadequate to fund large-scale projects.

Luna said that if the district can secure more bonds, it will ensure continued revenue. She said important improvement projects, like replacing asbestos in the roof of Carson Valley Middle School building B, will have to wait until more funding is generated.

On Tuesday, school board members unanimously approved the formation of a committee to explore bond-funding options.

Jennifer Ripplinger, financial advisor for JNA Consulting, whose company received a $20,000 contract to advise the committee, recommended the committee be comprised of 20-30 members from a variety of local interests, ranging from local businesspeople, parent-teacher organization members, leaders of local clubs and organizations. She said the committee will need to prioritize projects, make financial assessments, and get a bond measure on the ballot for next November's election.

Board member Sharla Hales said the list of projects would need input from specific schools in order to provide a clear picture to the public of what problems schools are actually facing.

Board president John Louritt said he would take suggestions from other board members then begin organizing the committee. He said that because of the board's involvement in its formation the committee would need to follow open-meeting laws, allowing public access to all committee meetings.

"The community needs to view the committee as independent," said Ripplinger.

Ripplinger also said the committee needs to make sure voters understand what a bond is, how it works and how it affects the taxpayer.

Throughout the year, the committee will present its conclusions to the school board, and, if warranted, the board will form a bond question for the November ballot, ultimately letting voters make the final decision.

-- Scott Neuffer can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 217.


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