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April 18, 2014

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education:

School Board frowns on mob museum, tourism district proposals

Citing budget worries, board will take concerns to Las Vegas City Council

The mob in Las Vegas

Benjamin Launch slideshow »

The Clark County School Board, tired of cutting school budgets to make up for lost revenue, voiced its reservations about a tourism improvement district the city of Las Vegas is proposing for a 4.5-acre parcel where Mayor Oscar Goodman wants to see a mob museum.

“I support redevelopment districts,” School Board member Carolyn Edwards said. However, she added, “We have seen over and over that when the state comes up short, they cut. I believe we’re down $450 per pupil. It comes from the same pot of money.”

The tourism improvement district would redirect up to 75 percent of the sales tax revenue generated in the area to the city for infrastructure. The city plans to use the money for upgrades to Stewart Avenue and a public parking garage, Las Vegas Office of Business Development Acting Director Bill Arent told the board.

Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group is proposing a $291 million mixed-use project that would include retail space and possibly a hotel and casino. A spokesman for the company said none of the tourism district revenue would come to the company.

A nonprofit group is also working on establishing the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in the old Las Vegas Post Office, a historic building. The retail development would be built around the post office, city spokesman Jace Radke said.

New families moving to the county to work at the mob museum and surrounding retail space could prove costly for the School District. A study done last year by Applied Analysis, paid for by the developer, indicated that should the proposal come to fruition, the School District would see costs of between $824,800 to $953,400 a year to educate children of tourism district employees hired from outside Clark County.

But School Board members said the study does not take into account sales tax that might be lost from shoppers patronizing the stores in the new retail center instead of stores that would not be redirecting sales tax revenue away from schools.

“We could possibly be losing revenue because of the shift of where purchases are being made, as well as taking the hit of new families coming in,” School Board member Deanna Wright said. “It’s hard for us to swallow when we have to tell students who are doing well on block scheduling that we can’t do that anymore because of cuts. Then we are being asked to take less than the pittance we are being given.”

School District Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler was charged by a 6-0 vote to take the School Board’s comments to the Las Vegas City Council, which will consider the tourism improvement district next month. The County Commission has also expressed its reservations about the tourism district.

If the City Council decides to proceed with the district, it will take its plan to the state Commission on Tourism to negotiate the terms of the district. Then Gov. Jim Gibbons will have the final say, Arent said.

The governor can recommend that the developer be required to provide the School District a payment to mitigate the expense to the School District, said Pat Zamora of Nevada State Bank, a financial adviser to the School District.

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