School board approves $56.7 million budget
The Clark County Board of Education approved a $56.7 million spending plan Monday that includes the use of $2.3 million in contingency funds, leaving a balance of only $4.3 million in reserve.
“We do not have a balanced budget for the fiscal year,” Aleisha Ellis, the school district’s financial director, said.
Board Member Gordon Parido was unhappy about the situation and said the administration had not kept board members informed of the shortfall.
“I really think that we could have done better,” Parido said. “To me, $2.3 million seems pretty unacceptable.”
Ellis said the budget was based on the board’s expected approval of a property tax rate of 65.4 cents per $100 of assessed value, but because of the coronavirus’s impact on families, the board had decided to allow the tax to remain at its current rate of 63.7 cents.
Payroll increases amount for most of the spending increase, she said.
“Payroll never goes down, it always goes up,” and those increases compound every year, Ellis said. “You have to have some sort of revenue increase to cover that every year, or you are continually every year cutting that 20 percent of your budget that is not payroll.”
Parido said he didn’t mind Ellis’s “lecture to the board about increasing revenue,” but there were things that happened with the budget last year of which the board was unaware. For example, he said, there were $700,000 worth of summer projects, half of which might not have been done if the board had known it was in a deficit situation.
“We’re going to have to put a lot of checks and balances in this thing, because if we don’t know by January that we’re in trouble, then we are in trouble,” he said.
Board member Scott Hisle said he realized the “lion’s share” of the budget was in salaries, but “if we get ourselves into the mindset of we’re going to have to start cutting a lot closer to the bone, I think there are some other things out there” that could be reduced.
He said the board could live with only $4.3 million in contingency for now, but “we’ve got to be already thinking about what’s going to happen next year.”
He said fiscal year 2021-22 would be a challenging year, but the board may need to consider cutting hundreds of thousands of dollars out of this year’s budget as well.
Hisle also suggested that maybe the board should have to approve any expenditures of a large amount.
Parido suggested the district may have to consider cutting personnel next spring.
“I don’t know what happened. I’m embarrassed,” he said.
“I have done my best every year to try to inform the board the best that I possibly can where we stand financially, and every single time when something comes to the board meeting to be approved, it is said it will come out of contingency,” she said, so she wasn’t sure what more she could do.
Parido admitted he and other board members should have asked more questions.
Board Member William Taulbee said the board had to accept some of the responsibility for the situation because it passed a budget that included a tax break earlier this year.
Board members approved the working budget 4-0 Monday with the understanding that they would continue to look at ways to reduce spending throughout the rest of the year.
School facilities decision delayed
The board did not act Monday on a school facilities construction plan with the priorities of building a new Clark County Preschool and a new Phoenix Academy alternative school. Instead, the matter will be on the agenda for a special meeting Oct. 12.
Parido said it was unfair for the current board to pass a four-year construction plan now when the voters were going to be electing two new members Nov. 3.