School district anticipates more cuts from the state

Gov. Jim Gibbons is asking state agencies, including school districts, to consider the effects of a 1.4 percent cut and a 3 percent cut for both the current fiscal year and the upcoming year, Chief Financial Officer Holly Luna told Douglas County school board members Tuesday night.

"If stated for the current year, where is it going to come from?" Luna asked.

She said the general fund's 4 percent ending fund balance could be tapped into this year.

"What to do next year we'll have to consider as we move forward," she said.

Gibbons has ordered the state's Economic Forum to provide a revised economic forecast by Jan. 19. A special session of the Nevada Legislature may follow.

Luna said district funding is like a stool with three legs: The local school support tax (sales tax), property tax, and the state's distributive school account, or per-pupil funding. When one source declines, another has to be bolstered, she said.

"The (support tax) continues to fall," she said. "With the reduction of the LSST, state aid had to grow."

Reflective of this and state legislators' budget add-backs earlier in the year, Douglas' distributive school account allotment for the year was bumped from $12.4 million to $15.1 million.

Every December, the district amends its budget to reflect actual enrollment, employee contracts and fund balances unknown in spring when the original budget is submitted.

On Tuesday, board members accepted an amended general fund budget of about $55.2 million with an unreserved ending fund balance of about $2.1 million or 4 percent. The grand total is up about $3.3 million from the original $51.8 million. Actual expenditures rose from $49.5 million to $52.4 million.

New expenditures include $2.2 million in add-backs approved by board members in July - items cut earlier in the year in anticipation of Gibbons' proposed reductions.

Another expenditure was about $500,000 in teacher salary increases ordered by an arbitrator in November.

The Douglas County Professional Education Association argued the 1.4 percent raise should have been budgeted already due to a staggered 8 percent increase approved in February 2008.

Association Vice President Brian Rippet said the district's salary schedules for the two-year raise period amounted to a 6.6 percent raise versus the 8 percent approved.

"It should have been budgeted for already," Rippet said. "We don't want to confuse current negotiations."

However, Luna said the original agreement was for a Y-rating, where raises are applied in 6-month increments commensurate with salaries for that time period, versus applying percentage increases to annual base salaries.

"Contractually, the district followed its obligation for the Y-rating," Luna said.

"The union interpreted the agreement one way, the district another, and the arbitrator decided in favor of the union," Human Resources Director Rich Alexander said.

Also in the amended budget was $25,000 for the high school's new random drug testing program, $125,000 in additional legal fees, and $100,000 allocated for the interim superintendent and permanent superintendent search.


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