Washoe School District passes budget for 2019/2020

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RENO, NV (KOLO) The Washoe County School District has approved its budget for the next school year. Passage came at a board meeting May 28, 2019.

The budget includes $484 million for the general fund and a $7.9 million deficit, and it includes a 3% raise for teachers.

But it will likely change. Because this is a legislative year, the school district will have until June 25 at its regular meeting to make a final decision on it.

The district is keeping a close eye on two bills in the legislature that could increase funding and reduce the deficit.

Background Info from School District:

Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 354.596 requires a tentative budget be filed on or before April 15th and requires the Board to give notice of a time and place of a public hearing on the Tentative Budget no sooner than the third Monday in May and no later than the last day of May (as such, May 28, 2019 was chosen). At the public hearing, interested persons must be given an opportunity to be heard. In addition, at the public hearing, the governing body can indicate changes, if any, to be made to the Final Budget and can adopt a final budget by the favorable votes of a majority of all members of the governing body.

The final budgets of school districts must be adopted on or before June 8th of each year. Because the legislative session is scheduled to end on June 3, 2019, there will not be sufficient time to analyze passed legislation and prepare and submit necessary documents prior to the June 8th deadline. Therefore, the recommendation is for the Board to approve a Final Budget at today’s meeting. Even though this is required to be titled as the Final Budget, state law allows the District to submit an Amended Final Budget if increases or decreases to revenues and/or expenditures are not included in the final budget, within thirty days after close of the legislative session. Because legislative passage of major funding bills has not yet occurred, we are certain that an Amended Final Budget will be proposed for the June 28, 2019 Board meeting.

Board Policy 3110 requires Board approval of the final budget. In addition, the policy seeks to adopt an annual General Fund budget that is structurally balanced not later than Fiscal Year 2020-21.

WCSD Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget Summary:

The District has sought public engagement in the budget process by conducting a budget survey to obtain input pertaining to partial solutions to the budget deficit and identification of program priorities. The results of the budget survey as well as an overview of the budget deficit and explanation of the District’s newly implemented Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) process were presented at five community budget forums. The results of the survey and forums were presented at a February 26, 2019 Board work session along with potential budget reductions resulting from the PBB process for programs that were determined to be less aligned to strategic plan priorities.

Also at the February 26, 2019 the Board was updated regarding the General Fund ongoing structural budget deficit ($7.5 million), additional budget needs for new schools ($3.4 million) and proposed cost reductions to offset a portion of the overall deficit ($4.6 million) thereby resulting in a deficit that was within the District’s control (before unknown factors related to local and state funding and other possible reductions) of $6.3 million.

Although none of the reduction options presented at the February work session were preferred and many of the options would result in deep reductions to programs, staff presented a summary of program reductions having a minimal to moderate impact at the March 12, 2019 Board meeting and the Board approved $1.3 million in reductions.

In addition, the Board has been updated regarding their various budget requests. On April 9, 2019 the Board approved additional budget reductions of $0.3 million related to changing fees for athletic transportation costs and some of the 5 to 10 to 20 percent budget reductions for departments. The combination of the March and April budget reductions would bring the deficit down to $4.7 million.

However, on April 9, the Board also received an update on the most current information related to projected local and state revenues and projected costs related to employee salary and benefits. Although staff estimated that overall K-12 funding was insufficient to cover all projected costs, which included a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for employees, staff also noted that the District was working with the State to identify areas of relief for the District and potential new funding sources. The Board directed staff to file the Tentative Budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20 based on these full costs but noted that there had been no final decision on the level of salary increase for employees or the level of reductions necessary to reduce or eliminate the structural deficit. A Tentative Budget was filed with the State, showing a tentative General Fund deficit of $17.8 million.

Today’s discussion will introduce additional proposed changes to the budget and broad concepts and potential cost shifts to further reduce the structural budget deficit to $7.9 million. Many of these concepts are tenuous, as they require further action through legislative and negotiations processes. The proposed changes are indicated in Attachment D and on the fund schedules in Attachment A. The Board will need to approve or modify these changes that have been incorporated into the Final Budget and then approve the Final Budget (Attachment C).

The budget timeline will also be discussed and is included as Attachment B. The timeline outlines the key elements in the budget process and other key dates when information becomes available or when deadlines must be met. The goal is to ultimately file a budget that strategically aligns resources, is more structurally balanced and provides for sustainability.

The FY 2019-20 budget is still extremely tentative at this point as the Legislature is still in session and staff continues to analyze the State’s proposed budget for K-12 education and other potential legislative impacts. Budget information requested by the Board and further analysis of reduction options is also ongoing. As noted previously, we fully anticipate conducting a budget hearing in June to apprise the Board of the impacts of the Legislature’s and Governor’s actions, and we anticipate filing an adjusted budget in June, as allowed by law.

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