Carson school board OKs budget with $5.2 million deficit

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The Carson City School District is seeing a $5.2 million deficit on its final amended budget for fiscal year 2023, exceeding its past few budget cycles as enrollment numbers decrease and salary expenses increase, Chief Financial Officer Spencer Winward reported this month.

The shortage, although stark compared to figures in years past, Superintendent Andrew Feuling said, is meant to stir up conversations with legislators about producing more necessary education dollars into Carson City and the state. The district’s educators also hope to show state leaders current scenarios about being in their hold harmless status and running at full capacity with staffing and operations as per-pupil amounts dwindle in recent years.

Winward updated the board members during their Dec. 13 meeting that a decrease in CCSD’s average daily enrollment numbers for the first quarter of the 2022-23 school year from May’s initial estimate of 7,286.5 to 7,191.6 has led to approximately $66.1 million in basic support, dropping from $67.7 million. This leads to an overall decrease of about $735,000 in revenue for fiscal year 2023.

The information assists trustees in hearing about fund balances and expenditure adjustments as the augmented and amended budget for 2022-23 is presented. The Nevada Department of Education requires school districts to provide final certified enrollment counts and recommended fund expenditures. Districts adopt amendments to their final budget by Dec. 31 as they have total enrollment numbers in place.

This year, Winward said there were few changes Carson City made from its June budget, which was approved with an opening fund balance of $11.2 million and a deficit of $2.3 million including a $1 million contingency. Federal relief from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds keep administrators from immediate concerns from approaching a fiscal cliff too soon, but trustees now are raising concerns about offering staff members raises that haven’t come in recent years or making large equipment purchases or replacements as buses age, for example.

Of the major general fund transfers the district makes, Winward said, CCSD no longer is responsible for sending dollars to nutrition services. The Nevada American Rescue Plan Act helps to feed students 18 and younger for the 2022-23 year, and that funding will end in June. Special education is receiving approximately $7.1 million, and the Class Size Reduction program no longer receives any transfers and is considered defunct, Winward said.

Summer school this year will be covered by ESSER money, according to Winward, and the restricted funds of the Pupil Centered Funding Plan will receive approximately $390,000 for English Language, $89,000 for Gifted and Talented Education and $387,000 for At-Risk in transfers. In all, this comes out to about $8 million.

With final changes as the calendar year ends, Winward said CCSD’s bond fund also saw final changes. CCSD’s Capital Improvement Plan was updated and a $250,000 expenditure was added with a priority project to repair and repaint Carson High School. Capital projects director Mark Johnson notified administrators it became a top need to begin the scope and bid process as early as January.

But keeping an eye on filling staff vacancies or giving raises will remain top of mind with the beginning of the 2023 legislative session for board members. Feuling said some increases in costs adding to the greater deficit this year includes $800,000 in a carryover amount as well as $2 million in full staffing salary and benefits without adjustment for vacancies. Another $200,000 addresses the operational and safety costs in transportation. In all, it totals an additional $3 million contributing to the deficit.

Trustee Mike Walker said for several cycles now, inflation remains so high, offering teachers, support staff and administrators decent salaries and benefits is a priority for him.

“We don’t have that money for raises for our employees … and I was watching about the transportation strike they were going to have last week and this guy was so outraged that they’ve gone three years with no raise, and I said, ‘Well, try to be a teacher in Nevada, it’s been a lot longer than that,’” Walker said. “We need to have our ducks in a row and advocate for livable wages for our employees.”

Board President Richard Varner said he, too, was concerned about what happens after ESSER dollars go away.

“We can’t continue to operate with larger deficits,” Varner said. “I’m sure you’re taking that into account.”

The board adopted the FY2022-23 budget in a 7-0 vote.


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