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September 20, 2014

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boulder city:

Schools could cut teachers, athletic programs

Rural schools face same budget cuts as everyone else, officials say

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Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Home News

Garrett Middle School student Bailey Barker, 13, asks how proposed budget cuts may affect local technical schools she plans to attend in the future during a town hall meeting Thursday at the Boulder City High School auditorium.

BC school town hall

Assemblyman Joe Hardy, left, looks on as Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak responds to a suggestion by a member of the audience regarding generating new sources of income for the school district during tough economic times at a town hall meeting Thursday inside the Boulder City High School auditorium. Launch slideshow »

Boulder City schools may operate differently than Las Vegas Valley ones, but later this year they'll face the same staffing cuts as the rest of the school district, officials said.

At a town hall meeting last night at Boulder City High School, 45 people heard about the Clark County School District's budget woes and how they'll affect Boulder City.

Because of the state budget crisis, the School District last month submitted plans for $120 million in cuts for the current year that ends in June. Last year, it slashed $133 million, Jim McIntosh, the district's deputy chief financial officer, said.

The state Board of Education will let the district know at the end of this month if it approves the money-saving plan, which includes asking every school to cut 3.5 percent from its budget. That means reducing staff to 97 percent of current levels and shortening athletic seasons, McIntosh said.

The School District is also planning to cut 13 percent from its central administrative staff, he said.

Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, and City Councilman Travis Chandler, who sit on the local Community Education Advisory Board, hosted the public forum with officials who represent Boulder City and other rural towns like Mesquite and Laughlin.

Along with Hardy, Chandler and McIntosh, officials including Steve Sisolak, who this month replaced Bruce Woodbury on the Clark County Commission; Chris Wallace, who represents Boulder City on the state Board of Education; Pat Skorkowsky, Clark County School District's assistant superintendent for the region; Mayor Roger Tobler and City Manager Vicki Mayes fielded questions from parents, teachers and schoolchildren.

Hardy began by telling the crowd that the state is $1.5 billion in debt, after last year exhausting reserve funds, borrowing money and cutting state employees.

"We're in a hole, and we need to stop digging," he said.

Skorkowsky said he was sympathetic that rural schools such as Boulder City find it harder to cut teachers, coaches and other staff than bigger schools.

"When you take away just one position, that equals negating five classes," he said.

But when Lee Esplin, principal at Martha P. King Elementary, asked whether rural schools could hope for a break, McIntosh told him probably not.

"I've heard concerns on all sides, from rural schools to special education schools, but it's 97 percent across the board," McIntosh said. "I hate to tell you that."

The decision to cut staffing was made, McIntosh said, after parents, students and teachers in surveys and forums late last year stressed the need to keep athletic and extracurricular programs.

Esplin asked the School District to let Boulder City schools, which have smaller numbers of students and teachers, and greater distances to travel for athletic teams, decide where to make the 3.5 percent cut.

"Give us the power to make the critical decisions," he said. "It's not the money that improves the education, it's the decisions."

Roxanne Dey, who serves on the Community Education Advisory Board, also implored the School District to let each school choose what can be sacrificed in the budget.

"Because where Rancho (High School in Las Vegas) might make cuts might be different than Boulder City High School," she said. "Even among the four principals in Boulder City, they didn't agree."

Rose Ann Miele, the city's public information officer, suggested the state and the School District together search for new funding sources in the state budget to avoid some of the cuts to teachers or programs.

Sisolak told her he agreed and said the state should use the situation as an opportunity to be smarter with finances.

"Nevada has clearly been too reliant on construction and gaming taxes, which are now falling apart," he said. "Our children, quite frankly, deserve better."

By a show of hands, most in the crowd indicated they would support a half-cent increase in sales tax to support education.

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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