WCSD Addresses $40 Million Budget Shortfall

By: Denise Wong Email
By: Denise Wong Email

RENO, NV - "These cuts have been significant, they've been huge," says WCSD Superintendent Heath Morrison. He says it hasn't been easy for the school district having to slash $123 million from the budget over the last five years. Now, having to cut $40 million more from next year's budget.

"It's very, very challenging," says Morrison.

On Monday, he outlined his recommendations for dealing with the shortfall. He plans to dip into reserves and savings, but that only saves about $25. That's why class sizes are about to get bigger.

"I think that the most obvious thing will be at the high school level," says Morrison. "I think it will be safe to say that parents and students will see larger numbers. Not significantly, it won't be like you're going to see 10 or 15 more students, but you will see an increase in class sizes."

That's an unnerving thought for teachers. At Wooster High School, where Tawna Eldridge teaches World History...

"I think that it's really scary situation," says Eldridge. "Since a lot of our, especially sophomore, World History classes are already 36, 37 students. Their desks don't even really fit in the room. So to bring that up to even one or two more students per class, it doesn't seem like a lot, but it really is a lot."

The squeeze also means fewer jobs.

"We will have 154 positions that originally we had budgeted that we will no longer be able to have. So we know that there will be fewer positions. Now does that mean that there's going to be reductions in force? That is not clear yet," says Morrison.

School officials say what is clear is that in this tough economy, they have to make some tough decisions.

"I'm a parent. I'm a grandparent," says Ken Grein, WCSD Board of Trustees President. "I have a granddaughter in high school that could be in one of those classes of 32. This is certainly not my first choice. But we have sat down and looked at what is possible."

Morrison is also proposing that they forgo the planned expansion of full-day kindergarten. And for the third consecutive year, not order new textbooks.

But what really keeps the Superintendent up at night is knowing that next year's budget will be even worse. That's when the district is expecting an $80 million budget shortfall.

At this point, Superintendent Morrison's recommendations are just that. The district will hold a series of townhall meetings in the next few weeks. The district will vote on the budget in May. The final budget must be submitted by June 8.

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