Washoe County schools face cuts without state’s help | NevadaAppeal.com

Washoe County schools face cuts without state’s help

Associated Press

Washoe County schools could face further staff and program cuts if the Legislature rejects Gov. Kenny Guinn’s plan to boost education funding, Superintendent Jim Hager warned.

Even if Guinn’s entire package is approved, the state’s second biggest school district still could be as much as $6 million short.

To boost support for Guinn’s proposal, the district might hold public meetings this spring before adopting a final budget.

“We could use the governor’s approach,” Hager said, adding that would involve informing the public of various scenarios that could occur if Guinn’s plan fails.

The district plans to prepare two or three budget scenarios because it’s unclear which sections of Guinn’s plan for the two upcoming fiscal years will pass.

Among other proposals, the plan calls for more than $90 million in additional spending for new K-12 programs and for a nearly $1 billion tax hike.

Proposed overall K-12 spending of nearly $2 billion is up about 28 percent over spending levels approved by the 2001 Legislature for the current biennium, which closes in June.

Without revenue from new taxes or tax hikes, the district could be faced with cutting $27.4 million, or about 9 percent, of its budget that could include eliminating staff, Hager said.

“I don’t think that’ll be the real case,” he told a Reno newspaper. “It’s unlikely there will be nothing going to education.”

If only the liquor, tobacco, business license, property, entertainment and activity taxes pass — 40 percent of Guinn’s proposal — the district could be forced to cut $15 million.

“Depending on the actual legislative actions, these possibilities are subject to immense change,” district Chief Financial Officer Gary Kraemer said.

Last year, the school board was forced to trim $8.5 million to balance the $268.5 million budget. The shortfall caused cuts to the district’s sex education program, Talent Academy, fifth grade violin program and other offerings.

If further cuts are necessary, the district probably would start with programs that escaped the last round of cuts, said district spokesman Steve Mulvenon.

Nevada ranked 42nd in total funding for schools on a per-pupil basis during the 1999-2000 school year, the most recent information available, according to the U.S. Department of Education.