WCSD Board of Trustees approves tentative budget

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WASHOE COUNTY, Nev. (KOLO) - The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees has approved a tentative 2019-2020 budget.

The budget includes Gov. Steve Sisolak’s proposed 3-percent pay increase for district employees, and anticipates the state’s 1.42-percent increase in funding to Nevada school districts.

The district says the tentative budget also reflects an increase in the district’s budget deficit.

“We want to thank Gov. Sisolak and his staff for making time to visit with us to discuss our shared goals of funding and supporting K-12 education,” says WCSD Board President Katy Simon Holland. “We share the governor’s goal of a 3 percent raise for staff, and we understand that the state has directed that the money to fund it be placed in the Distributive School Account.”

The Board of Trustees adopted a goal to eliminate the district budget deficit within three years and says it has cut $38.7 million from the 2017-18 budget and another $12.1 million from the 2018-19 budget, with the majority of the reductions coming from district administrative functions.

According to the Washoe County School District, it has reduced its deficit to less than $5 million.

As part of cost-cutting measures, the Washoe County School District says it has:

· Reduced administrative positions to 28 percent below national staffing averages

· Eliminated Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) who mentored and trained less experienced teachers, and returned TOSAs to regular classroom assignments

· Put the District’s health insurance out to bid

· Deferred technology investments

· Implemented conservation projects that have saved more than $800,000 in utility costs

· Undertaken a national best practice— Priority Based Budgeting-- to cut the budget more significantly in areas that are furthest from creating negative impacts to children in classrooms

· For the second year, included Washoe County residents and employees in budget reduction planning, utilizing feedback from almost 5,000 survey responses and five community budget forums attended by hundreds of people to help guide District funding decisions.

In Tuesday's action, the board made further reductions and adjustments it says are less impactful on students in classrooms, such as reducing some staffing at athletic events and reallocating custodian resources.

With the 3-percent increase and the new reductions, the district’s budget deficit is now estimated at $17.76 million, according to the district, leaving a 3.5-percent fund balance. The district says this low fund balance could have a negative effect on the district’s bond rating and represents less than one month’s expenditures.

The district says between now and May 28, when the board is scheduled to approve the final budget for 2019-20, district staff will work with the governor’s office and the Nevada State Legislature on proposals that would help all Nevada school districts meet their funding challenges, including removing restrictions on how some existing funds are spent. The district will also continue to evaluate every expenditure for cost justification.

"We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the governor, the legislature, the Nevada Department of Education, and other districts to ensure the best possible educational outcomes for all of our children,” President Holland says.