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January 27, 2015

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School District launches campaign to drum up support for new tax


Steve Marcus

Joyce Haldeman, left, Clark County School District associate superintendent for community and government relations, speaks during an informational meeting at the Bonanza High School library Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. CCSD officials answered questions related to a property tax initiative that will be on the ballot in November. The six-year capital levy, if approved, will raise $669 million for high-need school maintenance and renovations.

School District proposes higher taxes to improve schools

KSNV reports on the district's campaign to temporarily raise property taxes to fix schools, Sept. 18.

CCSD Meeting on Ballot Initiative

Joyce Haldeman, Clark County School District associate superintendent for community and government relations, speaks during an informational meeting at the Bonanza High School library Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. CCSD officials answered questions related to a property tax initiative that will be on the ballot in November.  The six-year capital levy, if approved, will raise $669 million for high-need school maintenance and renovations. Launch slideshow »

Schools Double Up After AC System Fails

A welcome sign for Diskin Elementary School students is posted at the front of Decker Elementary School on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. About 700 Diskin students were temporarily transferred to Decker on Wednesday after the 39-year-old school's air-conditioning system failed on Tuesday. Launch slideshow »

With less than two months left before the November election, the Clark County School District is getting out the vote for its tax initiative to fix up aging schools.

In the coming weeks, the nation's fifth-largest school district will launch a multimedia advertising campaign, send out more than 250,000 mailers and conduct several community meetings and door-to-door walks.

It's all part of a major effort to drum up support for a six-year capital levy that would raise $669 million to renovate the district's neediest schools.

The stakes are high. Some of the district's oldest schools have leaky roofs and flooded floors, unreliable electrical and HVAC systems, and overcrowded classrooms with broken equipment.

Passage of Question 2 would allow the School District to renovate 41 of the district's 357 schools, giving 43,000 students access to more modern facilities. It comes at a cost, however, as taxpayers would be asked to shell out an additional $74 per $100,000 of assessed home value each year between 2013 and 2018.

Joyce Haldeman knows it's a difficult ask. The district's associate superintendent of community and government relations has worked on several major school improvement plans since the mid-1980s, and says it's always been tough to sell voters on capital improvement plans.

However, this capital campaign will likely be the most difficult one Haldeman has ever seen, she contends. That's because unlike other capital plans that focused on bonds, this one relies on a property tax increase.

A tax hike couldn't come at more inopportune time as Las Vegas continues to struggle in the aftermath of the worst recession in more than a half-century.

"This one will be a little tougher," Haldeman contends. "We don't take this lightly, asking people to invest in their schools. There are always a lot of questions."

To help answer some of the public's queries, Haldeman hosted the district's first information meeting on Tuesday night. About 10 people showed up to the Bonanza High School library to soak up a PowerPoint presentation explaining the ballot initiative.

The last time the School District asked voters to approve a capital plan was nearly 15 years ago, Haldeman began. The 1998 bond program raised $4.9 billion over 14 years, and helped build 112 schools for the nation's fastest-growing district.

Student enrollment has now largely stabilized, Haldeman said. However, in the aftermath of the recession, the district scrimped on necessary school repairs and maintenance.

The facilities department whittled down its budget, allotting just six technicians to maintain 6,000 air-conditioning units in the district's schools. The San Diego City Schools — which serves less than half the student population of Clark County — spends twice as much as the School District on school maintenance, Haldeman said.

While the district was able to temporarily save money, the ramifications of failing to make those necessary repairs are slowly catching up, Haldeman said.

The district has identified $5.3 billion in school maintenance needs over the next decade, Haldeman said. If school maintenance is delayed again and again, repairs will become costlier and costlier.

"It's an insidious cycle we're in," Haldeman said.

Lincoln Elementary

Principal Jennifer Newton talks about the extensive repairs needed at Lincoln Elementary School Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Rex Bell Elementary School

Principal Tim Adams of Rex Bell Elementary School checks out a roof leak on school grounds in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. Launch slideshow »

When schools opened this fall, a record 47 schools reported complete air-conditioning outages of an hour or longer. At five schools, the broken AC units became such a problem that classes were suspended and students transferred to nearby schools.

With many schools at or over capacity across the valley, the School District's already overcrowded classrooms will overflow with additional students if these system failures continue, Haldeman said.

Worse, the district may have to consider closing schools that are deemed too unsafe for students and staff, Haldeman said. The district may decide to run double-sessions or even revert to year-round schools as well, she added.

"These are not easy solutions to discuss, and the School Board will be forced to make tough decisions," Haldeman said. "They have decided we can't not ask and not give voters an opportunity to decide (on the tax initiative)."

The overwhelming majority — 92 percent — of the funds raised by the proposed capital levy would be spent on modernizing 41 schools with the greatest need. Two of these schools — Rex Bell and Lincoln elementary schools — will be replaced with new campuses, district officials announced Tuesday morning.

(Nine schools would make ideal candidates for replacement, Haldeman said. However, the district wished to limit the scope of the capital improvement plan to mitigate the effect of the tax increase, she said.)

The remainder of the funds raised would go toward building two new elementary schools, most likely in the southwest valley, to alleviate overcrowding. Currently, five elementary schools in this region serve more than 1,000 students per campus.

The small crowd that gathered at Bonanza Tuesday night seemed skeptical, asking probing questions that illustrated concerns about a new tax hike.

Click to enlarge photo

Novelt Mack Jr. of Laughlin listens during a Clark County School District informational meeting at the Bonanza High School library Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. CCSD officials answered questions related to a property tax initiative that will be on the ballot in November. The six-year capital levy, if approved, will raise $669 million for high-need school maintenance and renovations.

Won't the tax increase be made permanent after six years?

This tax increase will last just six years and revert back to its current rate, Haldeman said. It will help bridge funding until the district can begin issuing bonds again in 2018. That's when the district's 1998 bonds will begin to expire, and the district will again have "bonding capacity" to fix its remaining schools.

How will fixing schools help educate my child?

Fixing schools will help officials implement educational "reforms" and increase student achievement, Haldeman said, adding the ultimate goal of the tax initiative is better student outcomes.

"We're not in the business of making sure we have buildings. We're in the business of educating students."

How can we ensure that the schools listed for renovations will remain on the list after the election?

The district is committed to stick with the list of school renovations they released, Haldeman said.

"We made a commitment to every one of these communities. We intend to do the schools on that list."

Ross Yamashita, 37, attended the meeting to find out how the tax initiative will impact his bottom line. Yamashita, who works in marketing, has two children attending a private school.

"My concern is if (the tax initiative) helps education and brings our students up," he said. "I don't want to pay more taxes if it doesn't help education."

Novelt Mack Jr. drove two hours from Laughlin to attend the meeting. Mack — who has a son at Laughlin High School — said he was a bit skeptical of the tax initiative. However, the active parent volunteer said he was happy to learn Laughlin High School is on the list of schools to be modernized.

"When I heard the word tax, it drew my attention," Mack said. "I understand why we're doing it for the six years, but this is not the solution. We need long-term solutions — a few revenue sources (for school maintenance) — or else we'll be right back in the same place in six years."

Dave Flatt, vice president of membership and marketing with the Nevada Parent Teacher Association, said the Las Vegas PTA chapters are ready to partner with the School District in support of the tax initiative. They plan to go door-to-door, hanging door signs and putting up lawn signs to help get out the vote.

"Anytime we can improve students' lives, that's what the PTA is about," Flatt said. "We want to make schools more inviting to parents. We don't want students to worry about the AC failing at the same time they're supposed to be studying."

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  1. More taxes the better. We know how honest the school district is about it's budget and finances.

  2. I personally will not be supporting this redistribution of wealth scheme.

  3. Just wondering if this powerpoint that Clark County School District associate superintendent for community and government relations Joyce Haldeman presented, is on the CCSD website?

    Many schools are having climate control issues throughout the year, making it very difficult to focus and get the attention of students is such environments. Perhaps the CCSD can furnish a list of affected school sites for inquiring readers to visit and observe the real impact of challenging learning environments. Maybe that will provide some insight on the need that voters are asked to address and support.

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. Bad idea. Throwing money at a problem is not a solution. After the ipad give away, I am not convinced the school needs the money.

    Raising the cost of home ownership right now is insane. Defeat this new tax.

  5. If you read that PowerPoint presentation they present, it states that if the tax increase is not passes then cuts to the operating budget will follow. So obviously this is a ploy to pad or shift expenses from the operating budget to refill the slush funds. No. No. No. They don't need billions more in bond money to fix a few leaky roofs. No.

    Landlords better get the message out that rents WILL go up if this is passed. Renters are notoriously ignorant about how bonds raise rents.

  6. Then in 2018 they want to issue more bonds to replace the ones that are being paid off. CCSD is on a endless spending cycle and we are being taken for a ride. Perhaps CCSD needs to prioritize what personnel they need. They can look at administration and other support personnel to determine how to move resources to maintenance.

    Perhaps they need to look at the distribution of the students and try to move students to schools that are not as crowded.

  7. "The 1998 bond program raised $4.9 billion over 14 years."

    So with that the district could not come up with a 20 year plan until 2018? Now they want to raise property taxes at the WORST possible moment? With 4.9 billion they couldn't renovate the schools?

    Oh well it will still pass because ignorance is the school districts greatest weapon.

  8. Does CCSD live in this world? There will be NO successful tax initiative for CCSD until they produce acceptable results in graduation, reading / writing at appropriate grade level THROUGHOUT K-12. Retired Army above says some of it well. Rolling over bond issues is taken by CCSD as an inherent right to spend and spend. Teachers "earn" an average of $74K for part time work. There is a CCSD employee for every 8 kids! For K-12, we spend at least $150K per student including all the illegals and anchor babies--about a third of the student enrollment.

  9. Clark County is the only county in Nevada that receives a portion of real estate transfer taxes and lodging taxes for capital improvements. The District needs to be transparent with how much revenues are collected under this arrangement, and what they are being spent on.

    Secondly, the District needs to have a neutral inspector conduct an audit of exactly what capital improvements are needed.

  10. I will not support it! Fix the system!

  11. I have always voted for school issues in the past, feeling that public education is vital to our country.

    This time I am hesitant to do so.

    I see what appears to be far too much money spent on "toys" instead of the district focusing on teaching the basics. Does it really make sense to hand out iPads at the lower grade levels when they can't even supply provide pencils and paper? What good does it do to teach children to push buttons when the children don't even know how to read the labels?

    Combine that with (some) teachers who seem to care only about the job benefits instead of the job mission and it is difficult to support this tax increase.

  12. I'll be voting to provide money to fix these worn out buildings.

  13. CCSD and the Teachers Union are blackholes when it comes to money. It's always more money that will improve our kids education. But every parent has to supply everything for the kid in the classroom and the kids/parents get saddled with the never ending fundraisers. And guess what ours kid's education doesn't get better. Just so sick of this cycle our schools are in.

  14. No new taxes til the CCSD and teachers union clean house.

  15. "we spend at least $150K per student"

    That would be well over 45 BILLION DOLLARS.

    I can only assume you made a mistake in your figures.

  16. Run all the propaganda you want, I'll still be voting no. Same goes to voting the tax extension for the firefighters. Time to clean up the problem from within.

  17. Great idea! Make those ungrateful children sit in warm classrooms with leaky roofs! That'll teach them! Seriously, though, the Union has absolutely nothing to do with this ballot measure. And secondly, school finance is a lot more complex than simply giving the school district a dollar amount and letting them spend it however they want. Those iPads were likely from a grant, not tax dollars. One of the first things the CCSD cut was building maintenance, in order to keep more dollars in the classroom. I understand that people don't trust the CCSD (I work for them, and I don't), but these repairs are way overdue. Trying to "teach" the CCSD a lesson just hurts our kids. Aren't our children worth more than $74 a YEAR? If anything, the refurb program should be bigger.

  18. "Aren't our children worth more than $74 a YEAR?" - jzetzman

    Yes, they are worth that and more. But there is no evidence that no matter how much we allow CCSD to spend to create a better learning environment that an improvement will actually occur. CCSD (as a whole) simply is not doing its job!

  19. Construction funds will end up in the NVPers pension fund--if not now, then later. This latest article in the NYTimes outlines how the teachers' pension fund in Chicago has only $10 billion, which means it's going to run out of money in just a few years. I'm amazed at how teachers have no business sense at all. Probably none of them feel the need to follow the stock market since they will be getting their defined benefits pensions regardless of whether or not the Dow Jones ever passes 14,000. (If it doesn't then some real budget cuts will kick in. Money for big pensions has to come from somewhere.)

  20. You people are hilarious. So it seems we have a nefarious left-wing brainwashing plot (run by the fat-cat parasitic teachers) using "sob stories" of kids sweating it out in schools without AC to fleece the unsuspecting taxpayers out of a fraction of their annual Starbucks outlays.

  21. boftx: Since "teachers" are supposed to set fine examples for our children, let's insist on a fitness and height / weight check at least annually. And let's insist on examples in leadership without bullying and behavior problems such as seen recently at business meetings, union activities.... Federal employees can and are disciplined and fired for inappropriate activity....

  22. Have you noticed that the amount we sink into CCSD PER CHILD (upwards of $150K for K-12) often exceeds what the parents earn and can spend to feed and cloth the same child?

  23. Vegas lee: 2:08 or so p.m. At least $150,000 per student: $11,000 to $16,000 per student PER YEAR times 13 years of K-12. More if you add in the costs of free lunch, fund raisers, donations...

  24. LOL @ Roslenda.

    "There is a CCSD employee for every 8 kids!"

    I'd love to see where you pulled that statistic from. While this might be true if we're considering in all administration, people at the ed-shed, counselors, janitors, etc., there are about 38 students to every TEACHER IN THE CLASSROOM. Try getting in 1-on-1 time with all 38 of them in 52 minutes. Perhaps your fight should be with the over staffing at the Ed-Shed, or other administration roles that we do not need.

    "let's insist on a fitness and height / weight check at least annually."

    How about we do this for parents? Let's get this straight... Teachers are there to teach your children. Your children already have terrible role models from music and reality TV. At least their teachers are doing something positive for their society.

    PARENTS are supposed to be the role models. The reason most teachers are overweight has to do with how exhausted their "part-time" work makes them at the end of the day. I know of very few teachers who leave school at their contracted time and go home and do nothing for their work or nothing over the summer. Mental exhaustion is just as bad as physical exhaustion.

    How about we get to the true root of the problem with education: PARENTS. It's the parents who are supposed to be role models. When parents show no interest in their child's education, nor give the perception that they feel education is important, their kid doesn't give a crap. Please feel free to walk into any non-honors 6-12th grade class. You'll find at least 1-2 apathetic kids who want to do nothing the teacher asks. When that teacher calls home to try to get the kid on track, they get a parent who explains "there is nothing they can do either".

  25. ByRun: CCSD statistics and LVSun articles show there is an CCSD employee for every 8 students. Do a search and find all the articles or ask your reporter. There are NOT 38 students per teacher. You can also find out by searching. It seems there are in excess of 14,000 certified teachers for 320,000 or so students. Too much math for you? There has always been and always will be parents who cannot or won't do for their kids. So how did teachers overcome this in the past? They taught the kids to read and write--so kids had the opportunity to keep reading even when their parents were not around. Teachers claim they are role models yet many are chubby, not fit, and loud obnoxious arrestable in public including at official meetings and union events.

  26. Bob: Holder should be fired, I agree. But, he is not an "employee." He is a political apointee. Notice the current news that 14 AG employees are leaving for misbehavior in Fast and Furious? All this tangential fixation on the Super seems wasted. There is no way you and I would agree with every move a Super makes--just ask the teachers--they can't agree on anything other than more money, more money, more money. Further, the Super's work experience is also not relevant. He has the job. There are many more sides to any story about alleged poor performance. We really don't need to get into the details of that.

  27. Bob, the Super's experience is a thing of the past. He HAS THE JOB. You weren't consulted in the selection so get over it and do what you can with what we have.

  28. Runthistown: By the time the kids get to 6th - 12th grade IT'S TOO LATE. Teach them to READ before 4th grade--then they have the opportunity and option to read--might be the only entertainment they can afford. Have you ever tried having a one-on-one discussion with apathetic and indifferent students? Some are going thru life challenges that cannot be dealt with in K-12. Unfortunate but that's the way it is. Apathy is not as bad as disruptive behavior--so the other 90% of a 20-student classroom should be able to learn from our talented teachers--what's up with that? Why aren't we getting RESULTS for those 90% of students?

  29. @Roslenda. I can tell you it's around 38 per teacher because each teacher at my school has about 38 per class all the while we were on the brink of losing another teacher after our count day.

    Teachers being fat has nothing to do with their ability to be role models, or ability to teach students.

    The teachers today do the same damn thing they used to... TEACH. The difference: parents and NCLB. Parents aren't knocking their kids upside the head (figuratively AND literally) as they used to when they come home with D's and F's. That's now considered child abuse.

    I love that you assume we all turn a deaf ear on our students' problems outside the classroom, but I guess that fits your "teachers are scumbags" way of life. I've had several students thank me for taking extra time to help them, or push them to succeed, and thank me for caring.

    Blame the parents and NCLB (aka every student scoots along) for why we have students in Algebra 2 that cannot do 2 digit multiplication. When they fail a grade, they are RARELY held back as they used to be. When students aren't held accountable for what they've learned, why bother learning? When the finally get to high school and realize that they won't graduate unless they start paying attention... it's too late.

    How about you stop assuming and over-exaggerating your "money-grubbing scumbag teachers" stereotype.

    Also, I'd love to see this 21-22 student classroom. HAH! I know teachers that have had 50+ in a portable, where students had to sit on the floor (because you can't fit that many desks in a portable). Your 21-22 is a joke and I don't care what site you source, it's B.S.

    Teachers everywhere.

  30. *source you cite

  31. Run: elementary schools had a 16:1 ratio as required by law. That was RECENTLY extended to allow SD's to deal with reality today but it's no where near 38:1. ONE SCHOOL and you claim district-wide consistency? Further, research shows over and over again that LARGE CLASSES ARE GOOD particularly for core subjects in middle school and high school as long as they have a great teacher. Again, Catholic schools frequently exceed 60 kids in grade schools and their results puts CCSD to shame--you want sources, try a web search. I'm not into endless blame on parents--I see you blame everybody EXCEPT teachers. Gee maybe we should look at that. If it doesn't matter who teaches, why are we paying them 150% of the local comp package?

  32. Run, a little honesty and candor from teachers including you would be a nice change. I have personal first-hand experience that class sizes are much smaller than teachers claim. Further, lumping in large study halls and assemblies is not a valid calculation. Again, larger classes are better--based on results. Seems the kids learn from each other when the teachers are off doing other things--some other things perhaps "required" but not teaching. We spent more on K-12 per student than many of these kids get in food, shelter, clothing, health care--we cannot afford the status quo. Define unsustainable. IF you find a way to expel the 30% or so of illegals, we could use that funding on our kids. IF you find a way to work with larger classes, that funding could translate to improved something else. IF you find a way to get results, the funding squandered on remedial could be used on gifted, talented, classroom equipment....

  33. Tanker and all: Why are you attacking me? If you bother to read my posts, I am pro-EDUCATION but not pro dumping funding down a drain. Read and CONSIDER what I say.

  34. Tanker: Find anything where I stated that a classroom is static. You seem to have some unusual need to preach and pontificate AS IF you knew something. As I said 9:08 a little honesty and candor from teachers would be nice. How about opining on the fact that many teachers are assigned all of 5 or 6 class periods for their "full-time" work, class periods of 50 minutes or so. 184 times 5 x 50 minutes equals full time???

  35. Bob: more and more Americans are pulling away from AG Holder. His subordinates are CURRENTLY taking the hit for fast and furious. Sometimes, Oftentimes, it takes a while for disciplinary and personnel procedures to work. Remember the Secret Service agents and non-payment for prostitutes while on presidential detail? They're still working on that--seems a couple WH staffers, advance party, were busy in dereliction. And FURTHER, one bad turn deserves another? How does Holder's poor performance translate to it's OK for teachers to bully students, to misbehave to the extent of misdemeanor public nuisance?

  36. Tanker: if you do so much, how come your students don't learn anything? Are you trying to claim 38 students based on 10 (or x) kids who transferred out and 10 (or x) kids who transferred in? New math, again.

  37. Tanker: I'm not going to tell you my entire career history--moderator would bleep me as off topic. Why do you need more information to attack me? Read the content of what I post. For example, I'm not opposed to funding education WHEN AND WHERE IT RESULTS IN REAL EDUCATION with a useful purpose--like reading opportunities for at-risk kids. Links are for the lazy. RESEARCH is the word. Further, every number or statistic I've used has been in prior LVSun articles and is available from CCSD data. I'm real good at math, remember. And I can do much of the stats and calcs in my head so my posts may walk right past you again and again.