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Clark County school trustees approve budget with projected $38 million drop in revenue

Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley
Education
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The back end of a Clark County School bus

The Clark County School Board of Trustees approved a budget Monday for the 2020-2021 academic year that forecasts a $38 million decline in revenue given the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that number is subject to change. The school district is waiting for funding information from the Nevada Department of Education, which, like other state agencies, has been asked by Gov. Steve Sisolak to cut its budget by 4 percent to 14 percent as the state grapples with steep drops in revenue amid the coronavirus shutdown.

The school district is required by state law to submit its final budget to the Nevada Department of Taxation by June 8. Because state education funding remains unknown, the school district used Great Recession-era figures and information from the governor’s finance office to estimate forthcoming revenue decreases, said Jason Goudie, the district’s chief financial officer.

For instance, the district projects a $130 million drop in revenue from the Local School Support Tax, which is roughly equivalent to the 11.5 percent decrease seen during the 2008 financial downturn that gripped the city. Similarly, the district expects an $8.6 million decrease in revenue from the Governmental Services Tax, which includes vehicle registration fees. Unlike the Local School Support Tax (part of the sales tax), which will be somewhat offset by an expected increase of $82 million to the state education fund known as the Distributive School Account, the Governmental Services Tax isn’t guaranteed by the state.

“So any time that goes down goes up above, we either benefit or we lose out, and so we’re projected to get about a 10 percent decline,” Goudie said, referring to the Governmental Services Tax.

The district is also forecasting a 3 percent increase — or $19 million — to its property tax revenue.

Goudie said the budget includes the agreed-upon staff pay raises, including compensation bumps tied to professional development.

Another variable is how much federal money the district receives through the CARES Act — which is designed to provide economic relief amid coronavirus-related shutdowns — and where that can be used to fill budget holes. That’s why Goudie said it would be premature for the district to delve into where the budget cuts might occur. 

“All of those pieces put together, we really need to put together a comprehensive plan about how we make cuts and how we can potentially replenish either all or part of those cuts through the use of federal funds,” he said.

Even so, Trustee Linda Young didn’t gloss over the brutal realities once again facing the massive school district.

“it still comes down to budget cuts,” Young said, adding that she would oppose any cuts that single out support staff who have shouldered many of the cost-trimming measures in recent years.

It’s also unclear what the education delivery model will look like by August, when students are slated to return to school. Goudie said the district is building budget plans around various scenarios, with each carrying “significant financial implications.”

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