The Carson City School District is navigating new concerns formulated from the Nevada Department of Education’s latest update regarding sweeping funds from state school districts as part of the change accompanying Senate Bill 543.
SB543, which transformed Nevada’s funding formula to the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan and apportions education dollars into a separate state fund, created budgetary requirements and its own complexities, Superintendent Andraew Feuling presented at the district’s Board of Trustees meeting Aug. 9.
Feuling said according to an NDE chief fiscal officers meeting several weeks ago, the department reviewed final language of NRS387.1213, referring to the Education Stabilization Account, meant to reduce harmful impacts to the state general fund in the initial SB543. School districts in Nevada are required to transfer from their fund to the ESA “any amount by which the budgeted ending fund balance of the county school district fund exceeds 16.6 percent of the total budgeted expenditures for the fund. The interest and income earned on the money in the Account, after deducting any applicable charges, must be credited to the Account.”
But Feuling said there are some challenges with language that updated the statute in the 2021 legislative session that never made it into SB543 referencing the actual ending fund balance versus “budgeted” amounts wording.
“I think there’s still some hesitation as to what exactly that means to us (school districts) in terms of determining numbers,” Feuling said.
Feuling previously used Carson City’s nutrition fund as an example for observation, since recently the state announced it would provide $75 million for free school meals through the National School Lunch Program as communities continue in COVID-19 recovery. Students will receive free breakfasts and lunches through Nevada Department of Agriculture waivers, a significant cost savings to school districts.
However, Feuling said the government is examining its fund balances and expenditures. Carson City School District, meanwhile, has a surplus in its nutrition fund due to the food services reimbursements.
“The problem is those are federal dollars,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s being considered as part of that pie, and that would increase our fund balance one way or another, and if they sweep those funds, I don’t believe they can take from the nutrition fund.
“That is not a good tradeoff. That’s not fair to me. That is a real problem,” Feuling said. “They added language saying if you can prove that those dollars shouldn’t be taken, then we’ll consider not taking them. … I certainly wish they had said, ‘If you’re hold harmless, none of this applies to you.’”
Carson City School District remains under the hold harmless provision established in the 2019 Nevada Legislature to protect districts from an unexpected loss in revenue when it changed over to the PCFP.
Feuling said while there are currently no viable answers for now, he would keep the board updated on ongoing conversations or answers he receives from the NDE.