Lyon County schools bracing for massive cuts | NevadaAppeal.com

Lyon County schools bracing for massive cuts

Dave Frank
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

The Lyon County School District is trying to set aside about $3 million from its budget to handle large cuts that could be mandated by the state.

The school could lose up to $5 million from the state next year. Student enrollment tied to state funding is expected to fall for a second year in a row. State funding also could drop by about 3 percent overall under Gov. Jim Gibbons’ plan being debated at the Legislature.

State employees’ pay also could be cut by 6 percent if the governor’s plan passes.

The school district is preparing for the budget hit with pre-emptive cuts and keeping a close eye on the Legislature’s actions this session.

The district plans to make a final decision on cuts in the spring. It got $49 million of the $68 million in its main fund this year from the state.

But Teri White, associate superintendent, said the district has already likely ruled out a popular idea to close Fridays and reduce the school week to four days.

The reduction was the top suggestion from parents in a district survey, she said. The money saved from it would be “minimal,” however, she said.

Utility and employee costs wouldn’t be much lower on Fridays because of sports, White said.

Teachers also are contracted for a certain number of hours a month, she said.

But the district will probably have to find some way to significantly cut experiences, said District Finance Director Wade Johnson.

The eight elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools and one kindergarten through high school have already cut back on office supplies to start saving, school officials said.

One of the best ways to save money for 8,900-student school district could be to reduce bus routes to save on gas and employee costs, they said.

Johnson said this was the first year in 20 years the district didn’t buy a new bus.

The county grew from about 35,000 people to 55,000 people since 2000, dipping slightly in the past year.

White said the district wants to avoid a pay freeze for its more than 600 teachers. The district could save about $1 million a year if it did, however, she said.

The district will try to avoid laying off teachers because of the “detrimental effect” the cuts would have on students, she said.

But schools don’t know what he Legislature will demand by the end of the session, Johnson said.

“We’re always hoping it’s voluntary and people will opt to retire, but chances are there’s going to be an area where we will have to have a reduction in force,” he said. “That’s the reality of it.”

The district is determined not to close any schools, however, White said.

“For us, it’s not feasible,” she said. “Most of our schools are at capacity.”

Pete Chapin, principal of Silver Springs Elementary School, said his employees are learning to do their job with fewer resources.

They recycle more paper, make fewer copies and do more work on computers rather than paper, he said.

“The well has kind of run dry with the state with funds,” he said.

Janette Dabel of Dayton said the district needs to be careful with the funding cuts. Riverview Elementary School in Dayton serves her children with great reading programs despite the tight budget the school is run on.

She aid any more cuts to the district would “seriously impact the students.”

– Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212. The Associated Press contributed to this article.