Proposed schools budget goes to Gov. Kenny Guinn

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A $2.8 billion proposed spending plan for the state's public schools calls for a 3 percent pay raise for teachers and other educational personnel in each of the coming two fiscal years.

The proposed budget for the next two years was approved by the state Board of Education on Saturday. It will be sent to Gov. Kenny Guinn for inclusion in the state budget and then to the Legislature in February.

Of the total amount, nearly $2 billion could come from the state's general treasury.

Douglas Thunder, deputy state superintendent of public instruction for finance, told the education board Saturday there probably wasn't much chance of getting everything that is requested.

Thunder, who prepared the budget, is predicting a gain of 4.4 percent in enrollment next fiscal year and 4.1 percent the following year, to 421,139 pupils. Those extra students will cost $91.5 million next year and an additional $172 million in the second year.

Some board members called the proposed 3 percent per year symbolic. The board two years ago asked for the same increase and teachers ended up with a 2 percent raise in the second year of the biennium.

The average starting salary for new teachers in Nevada is $34,006, not including a $2,000 signing bonus that education officials expect the Legislature to approve for the next two years.

The $1.2 billion budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, would rise to $1.3 billion next fiscal year and to $1.4 billion in the 2007 fiscal year. Under the proposal the state would be responsible for $945.8 million next fiscal year, a 4.5 percent increase and $1 billion the following year, or a 6.3 percent gain.

Financing the salary increases will cost an additional $172.4 million during the next two years. The board was given the option of suggesting 1 percent, 2 percent or 3 percent annual increases.

Gary Waters, president of the state board, said the Legislature usually doesn't give the pay raises the board recommends. But he said it must make the request because it would appear "we gave up before we tried."

To expand kindergarten instruction, the board agreed to ask for an additional $19 million over the next two years. Thunder said that would go for an extra 30 minutes a day in kindergarten. But he said the school superintendents and the schoolteachers union have other ideas on how to augment kindergarten.

Thunder was questioned about federal funding for the No Child Left Behind programs that are now required by the federal government. He has projected the present state grant of $96.1 million will go to $112.1 million next fiscal year and $119.1 million the following fiscal year.

The state budget adds $65 million over the next two years to offset expected 12 percent increases in the group insurance premiums of teachers and district personnel. Thunder also said the budget asks for $6.7 million for this fiscal year to help the districts subsidize part of the insured premiums of its retired employees.

The Legislature, in the closing days in 2003, ordered local governments and school districts to pay part of the premium of their retired employees who were enrolled in the state health insurance program. But the lawmakers never gave any money to the school districts to pay for it.

Thunder said the Legislative Interim Finance Committee allocated $2.7 million for the first year of subsidized coverage for the school districts but an additional $6.7 million is needed for this year. Districts have that built in to their coming budgets.

If this budget is approved, the basic support per student would rise to $4,519 next year and $4,659 in the following year. The recommended amount this year is $4,424 per student.

Thunder said this proposed spending program will be modified in the coming months as more concrete figures become available and the board decides what its top priorities will be.


Information from: Las Vegas Sun,


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