School workshop to explore budget options

After five meetings to gather community response, the Carson City School Board will hold a workshop Saturday to discuss what they've heard.

"I've heard what the district officials have to say. I've heard what the public has to say," said board president Barbara Howe. "I want to hear what my fellow board members have to say."

Superintendent Richard Stokes has presented a variety of options for the school board to make $7.2 million in cuts expected to be handed down by this year's Legislature.

According to the presentation, closing an elementary school would save the most money, about $3.5 million. District enrollment has declined by 936 students since 2003.

However, public opposition to closing a school has been great.

"People's emotions are running high," Howe said. "That means they care."

She said she hoped Saturday's workshop will be a break from the charged atmosphere of previous meetings in favor of a discussion of the numbers.

However, that may not happen.

Erin Lehman, a mother and volunteer coordinator at Fremont Elementary School, said she wants to get her message across.

"My expectation for the meeting is to go in there and fight so we don't have to close a school," Lehman said. "I don't think they're considering all the variables. I'm an advocate for all these children and I don't think we're ready to have all our schools at 100 percent capacity."

Lehman said she supported exploring other options, including eliminating all portable buildings, reducing Empire Elementary School to kindergarten through third grades and decreasing bus service.

"We still have some cuts that are significant in the district that aren't going to impact the schools as much," she said. "On top of all that, we still have that $11.2 million in the rainy day fund. It's called a rainy day fund, and it's a rainy day."

Howe said she wants to see how board members feel about dipping into that fund.

It seems like a lot of money, she said, but it only makes up about three months of what it costs to run the district.

"I don't want to spend a dime yet," she said. "It will be drained really quickly."

Howe said she's also interested in other options, specifically how much the district could save by switching to a four-day week, an idea that has repeatedly been suggested.

Stokes called it a "broad, information sharing" meeting that could lead to specific conclusions as early as next month.

"I hope as an outcome we'll be able to have some resolution by the March 10 school board meeting," he said.

Although the Legislature will be in session until June 2, the district's tentative budget is due by April 15 and the final budget by the second Wednesday of May.

- Contact reporter Teri Vance at or 881-1272.


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