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December 22, 2014

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School District survey asks residents where to direct cuts

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Erin Dostal

Clark County School District Superintendent Walt Ruffles speaks with reporters Tuesday afternoon alongside Board of Trustees President Terri Janison (left) and Deputy Superintendent Lauren Kohut-Rost. The school district released a survey that will ask the public how the district should best deal with a $123 million budget shortfall.

The Clark County School District launched a survey Tuesday asking parents, students and taxpayers how the district should handle its $123 million budget shortfall.

During the special session of the Legislature, the state cut $78 million from the district. On top of that, local tax revenue is likely to decline by $45 million, spelling financial trouble for the district.

“Any items that were reasonably easy to cut have already been cut,” School District Superintendent Walt Ruffles said at a news conference.

Ruffles said the district’s goal is to make the cuts with as little impact as possible on student learning.

Ruffles discussed the survey at the CCSD Administrative Center, 5100 W. Sahara Ave., alongside Board of Trustees President Terri Janison and Deputy Superintendent Lauren Kohut-Rost.

“We’ve heard several times from people: 'How can I help?'” Janison said. “This is their opportunity.”

The survey was developed after the district asked employees where cuts should come from. The district received 18,000 responses.

The survey asks residents to choose whether they are strongly opposed, somewhat opposed, somewhat in support of, or strongly in support of 16 options that would reduce the School District’s expenditures.

Options include temporarily increasing class sizes by two students in grades one through three, which would cut 540 teaching jobs. Other options include eliminating extracurricular activities and cutting the School District police.

Another option would be to put all schools on a nine-month calendar, which the Sun reported Tuesday morning. If all schools are placed on a nine-month calendar, teachers at those schools would work 184 days a year, rather than 209, the superintendent said.

“That’s not as easy as it sounds,” Ruffles said. “The truth of the matter, it will have a lot of difficulties … a lot of employees will be impacted.”

About 65 percent of the county’s schools are on a nine-month calendar.

The tentative budget for next year will be approved April 7. The board will adopt a final budget May 19.

The superintendent said he favors furloughs and other options that would let more employees share a lesser burden, rather than layoffs.

The superintendent said the School Board won't favor parent or student surveys over those of other taxpayers.

The survey will be available to the public until the end of the business day March 24. It will be available at public schools, libraries and at ccsd.net/budgetsurvey. The survey will also be available in Spanish.

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