Determining where Carson City School District will stand this year financially remains hazy without any hints as to which funding model the Legislature will direct districts to use, trustees heard again Tuesday night.
For now, the assumption remains there will be no changes to the current Nevada Plan that has provided for a per-pupil amount, for which Carson City receives $7,200, and a worst-case scenario will reduce the district with a general fund balance reduction from $14 million to $5 million.
Director of Fiscal Services Andrew Feuling told the school board at its meeting this would be the last year Carson City could absorb another loss like this.
“You’re looking at a loss of almost $700 per pupil with almost 8,000 students,” he said. “It’s a big change.”
Superintendent Richard Stokes, speaking up during Feuling’s budget update, said he and Feuling had attended a meeting last week with the Nevada State Education Association but received little direction about the Legislature’s conversations including school districts for implementing a new funding model.
“We appreciate support from the teachers … but right now, without any knowledge … it’s just really hard to know where to move forward,” Stokes said.
In summary, Feuling shared some information provided by the Nevada Department of Education and where expectations are for funding to increase for K-12 education:
At-risk student populations in the lowest quartile of the state will receive $139.8 million based on free and reduced lunches and if they are at a one- or two-star school.
About $76.2 million more will be poured into school safety to improve single points of entry onto school campuses, for example, and to hire more school resource officers.
Statewide, $44.7 million will be devoted to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs
Approximately $63.4 million will go to the Read by 3 program, which Feuling said hasn’t been refreshed in the new biennium.
Career and Technical Education programs will receive $27.1 million to train students in high-demand professions.
School safety was of particular interest, Feuling said, in the previous administration with Gov. Brian Sandoval because of an increase in national incidents, so there’s a total of about $54 million above what was previously available now due to a marijuana 10 percent excise tax. This would help to expand a social worker program through a state block grant and potentially pay for school resource officers, he said. The enhancement comes to about $6.5 million each year of the biennium.
Trustees on Tuesday asked about when they might hear about a decision from the Legislature on which funding formula school districts will be mandated to use, which, Feuling reported at the Feb. 12 meeting, is unknown and currently remains so.
Trustee Laurel Crossman said the Nevada Senate is reviewing Senate Bill 188 directing districts to base their budgets on preceding years per pupil amount. The BDR requires school boards to submit to the Nevada Department of Education their budgets by Aug. 15 of each year detailing categories of expenditures, how the expenditure was used and the source of revenue.
Feuling also reviewed certain timeline and revenue assumptions for CCSD, looking ahead to the data yet to come from the Departments of Education and Taxation. Final revenue and property tax projections from the Department of Taxation will come in mid-March, which are used to build the district’s final budget. He said they’re also awaiting word from the NDE on the final per-pupil amount, which so far has been expected to be $7,200, but potentially it could be as low as $6,511 depending on the health of the state’s general fund. Staffing costs are also expected to be $1.8 million with a 5 percent increase in health insurance.
Finally, as he presented two weeks ago, worst-case scenarios for Carson City School District’s 2019-20 budget without any changes and increases indicate approximately $60.5 million in general fund revenues and $69.5 million in expenditures, leaving almost a $9 million deficit, which he said could be absorbed this year, but it wouldn’t be possible to do so again for fiscal year 2020-21.
“This is a really difficult conversation for me and a lot of the districts as we’re looking at some of these numbers in the long term,” he said. “We’re very fortunate that we’re in a position where even in one year we can absorb a loss like that because there are a lot districts that aren’t even close to being able to do that.”