Nevada’s school districts still keep their eye on what’s coming in the weeks ahead during the legislative session while preparing their tentative budgets, and that uncertainty leaves a murky picture while lawmakers determine next steps with the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan, according to Carson City School District’s fiscal services director Andrew Feuling.
While there still are many unknown factors about what its final budget outcome will be, CCSD itself remains in a healthy position thanks to an expected second and third round of stimulus packages, Feuling reported during a presentation to the Board of Trustees Tuesday. But he said he remains confident about what he will present for the district’s final budget as new information is returned from the Legislature.
CCSD has been waiting to hear on what will become of the transition to the PCFP established in Senate Bill 543 and its hold harmless projections, or the provision that it will not receive less money than it currently is given until the PCFP is fully in place since December, Feuling said. School districts also have been working to shape their budgets according to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s call to agencies in November to brace for 12% total reductions.
Meanwhile, the Nevada Commission on School Funding has held ongoing conversations, which have addressed optimal funding, and doing its own fine-tuning, Feuling said, but members were not aware in December that more stimulus funding would be arriving.
In January, Sisolak’s proposed budget detailed a phased-in approach to the PCFP, and district administrators were unsure about long-term impacts, Feuling noted, even into March. As of April 7, Assembly Ways and Means Chair Maggie Carlton said legislators were willing to move forward on updating the K-12 formula, but the phased strategy raised more questions than answers.
Feuling said this left districts without any real figures to work with and added it’s possible the session could be extended to work on some of these issues.
“There are decisions that are going to have to be made under a significant level of uncertainty,” Feuling said, referring to the current tentative budget process.
However, CCSD’s budget itself fortuitously is in a healthy state now to handle these challenges, he said. It still stands to receive the $4.4 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funding as previously announced, which could be obligated through the 2023 school year, Feuling said.
Staffing would experience changes for the next fiscal year. Without further clarification from the Legislature at this time, staff positions that had been funded by state grants that have been absorbed into the State Education Fund have been moved into the district’s general fund. Feuling said no adjustments for retirements or resignations have been made, and there also have been no adjustments for enrollment changes.
The district also faces a potential worst-case $5 million deficit, which would have occurred without the stimulus funding.
“This is likely the world we would have been living in,” Feuling said. “It probably would have been much more complicated, but the federal stimulus funds certainly have helped.”
Though Feuling said he also has heard there have been some recent worries about class size reduction funding and strategies to continue Nevada’s Read by Grade 3 program in which the Silver State has demonstrated significant improvement toward reaching the national average, there are still more conversations to be had about finding the money for both of these items.
The item on Tuesday was for discussion only. A budget hearing for CCSD is scheduled for May 25.