Clark County schools proposing record $9.5 billion school bond

LAS VEGAS " Clark County school officials have unveiled a plan to float the biggest bond in state history to underwrite construction of 73 new schools over the next 10 years.

The $9.5 billion proposal would extend a building project that has been underwritten for almost a decade by a $3.5 billion bond measure that passed in 1998.

"This represents the continued growth that is on the horizon," Clark County schools Superintendent Walt Rulffes told school trustees on Monday. "It also represents a program that could be sustained without a tax increase."

District officials predict enrollment of the Las Vegas-based district, currently the nation's fifth-largest, will grow from nearly 309,000 students today to 473,000 students by 2018.

School trustees made no decision Monday whether to accept the proposal. The board is expected in January to finalize wording for a ballot question to put before voters next November.

Nevada schools Superintendent Keith Rheault called a construction bond of more than $9 billion "definitely be the biggest in Nevada history."

Trustee Sheila Moulton called the $9.5 billion proposal "staggering," but necessary to ease overcrowding and keep pace with district growth.

Trustee Terri Janison said the numbers spoke for themselves.

"It will be up to us to get that message out properly," she said.

Officials said that without new schools, some campuses would be subject to double sessions, meaning students' school hours would be reduced. One group of students would arrive in the morning and end their study day in the early afternoon, while another group would arrive midday and attend until evening.

"You (would) have kids who go to school in the dark and come home in the dark," said Joyce Haldeman, district's director of community and government affairs. "The safety issues are horrendous."

Of the $9.5 billion proposal, $7 billion is expected to be supported through property taxes, with another $2.5 billion coming from hotel room taxes and a real estate transfer tax approved by the state Legislature in 1997.

Rising property values, construction of new hotels and increases in the number of visitors to Las Vegas have helped the district's 1998 construction program grow to $4.9 billion from its original $3.5 billion.

When the last schools are constructed in August 2010 from the program launched in 1998, 101 new schools and 11 replacement schools will have been built, officials say. The district had originally expected to build 88 new schools under that program.

Officials say the district's 325 elementary, middle and high schools have average enrollments of 725, 1,700 and 2,700 students respectively.


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