Lawmakers restore $76 million in state education budget |

Lawmakers restore $76 million in state education budget

by Geoff Dornan

The money committees voted Friday to put $76 million back into the K-12 education budget.

The money was removed the previous weekend because staffers advised that school districts had inappropriately put the money into the per-pupil base when it was actually one-shot funding.

Lawmakers in the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees voted Friday to restore the money as base funding as an enhancement for this biennium.

Doing so means the money can be used for teacher salaries and anything else districts choose.

“I’m glad to see our proposed action,” said Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno. “I’ve had a number of folks come talk to me about the dilemma they’re in.”

He referred to the fact that, when the money was removed a week ago, nearly all school districts had not only closed their budgets including that funding but had sent out contracts to teachers.

The reduction cut base per-pupil funding by $87 per student, seriously affecting those budgets and teacher contracts. Restoring the money raises the average basic per-pupil support to $5,590 in fiscal 2014 and $5,676 in 2015.

“It was huge because the districts had contracts in place, “ said acting Superintendent of Education Rorie Fitzpatrick.

She said her office, the districts and state fiscal staffers need to work on a system that gives school districts a firm idea of what funding they will get earlier in the process.

That means there still is about $135 million not yet firmly committed for the coming biennium.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, however, has spelled out where he wants most of that money — including the $25 million in savings from lower health care cost projections and the total $46.9 million in added revenues projected by the Economic Forum.

His budget also spends down a large share of the rainy-day fund and the state’s estimated $38 million ending fund balance.

The problem for legislative Democrats is that both Republican caucuses already have said they intend to largely back the governor’s recommendations.