Special session: Lawmakers approve school flexibility changes, furlough reductions | NevadaAppeal.com

Special session: Lawmakers approve school flexibility changes, furlough reductions

The Legislature has given approval to an amendment which eliminates the added furlough hours the governor recommended imposing on state employees.

Gov. Jim Gibbons proposed raising unpaid furlough leave from eight hours to 10 each month to help balance the budget. Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said that was unfair to state employees who she said are probably being hit harder by reductions than any other public employees.

When other cuts such as longevity pay, merit pay are added in, she said the average cut for them is about 11 percent.

Eliminating the added two hours each month will require about $6.8 million in added funding.

Asked how the eight hour furloughs would work with those workers who go to four 10 hour shifts each week, Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said that would be left to individual agencies and employees to work out. She said for example those workers could take two hours of comp-time so they didn’t have to come to work that day.

“I agree our state work force has been doing over time, So I support restoring their two hours,” said Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno.

Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said those provisions and others in SB3 provide fairness among the various groups of state workers.

SB3 implements the four day work week in state agencies but also requires that those who can’t take furlough leave take a commensurate pay cut. The vast majority of exempt workers are correctional officers – nearly 2,000 of the 2,700 exempt workers in state service.

Prisons and hospitals which can’t shut down to a four day schedule are exempted from the law.

In addition, two bills designed to provide school districts more flexibility in their use of state money received final legislative approval.

AB4 temporarily lifts the restrictions on the number of pupils in grades one through three. In grades one and two, the maximum class size would rise by two students to 18. In grade three by two students to 21.

AB5 temporarily waives the requirement that school districts spend a certain amount of money each year for textbooks, instructional supplies, software and hardware.

Those changes were requested by school district superintendents who said that flexibility would give them a better ability to handle budgetary cuts by the state.

Both of those changes expire June 30, 2011.

Those changes were requested by superintendents because they were facing 10 percent General Fund reductions. Lawmakers are trying to reduce that cut, hoping to get it to 5 percent. Assembly Republicans suggested splitting the difference at 7.5 percent.

The 5 percent rate would require $121 million to do. The 7.5 percent rate would cost the state $60.5 million.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.