Jim Clark: Assembly Bill 46 — and our schools
April 3, 2013
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Wait, wait; there's more … about the Washoe County School District's proposal that the legislature delegate taxing power to school trustees (Assembly Bill 46).
Previously I wrote that this callous proposal will bypass any input from voters, run roughshod over three different taxpayer protection laws and in so doing set a really bad precedent that is sure to be followed once all restraints on tax increases have been circumvented.
I have since found that in February 2013 the WCSD issued a publication called: "Snapshot: 10 year look at (the school district's) capital projects."
The "snapshot" reports that between 2002 and 2012 WCSD spent or committed $551 million in capital expenditures on their 220 buildings (93 schools).
That works out to $2.75 million per building and almost $6 million per school. They now claim to have "maxed out the credit card" voters gave them in 2002 and need to "raise their debt limit" for the decade to come.
The district web site has a link to 329 pages listing another half billion plus dollars of "needed repairs and maintenance" which is what Assembly Bill 46 is about. Give them credit for chutzpa.
Examining the details for Incline schools the district says that Incline High School "improvements" will cost $7,804,618; Incline Middle School $3,434,175 and new Incline Elementary School $924,286.
Most of the listed items are maintenance that ought to come out of the current operating budget. This casts a huge web of suspicion on all 329 pages of their "capital needs" wish list because a capital budget should be spent on capital items, not recurring maintenance and repairs.
Moreover if their half billion dollar figure is even remotely accurate Assembly Bill 46 won't scratch the surface of that. The district expects the measure would raise only $20 million a year in new tax revenues so it would take over 25 years accomplish its wish list.
The "snapshot" says that between 2002 and 2012 the district built three elementary schools and three middle schools.
They also expanded two high schools and finished the other half of Incline Elementary. In 2007 WCSD enrollment was 63,635; last year it was 62,220.
So the district built six new schools and expanded three more to accommodate a declining student population? Not only that but the "snapshot" shows undisbursed funds for projects "in progress" of $139,704,201.
If enrollment is declining why are they still building and renovating? Shouldn't they spend what they have before asking the legislature for more?
The "snapshot" shows WCSD expended $24,250,051 on administrative costs. There is no breakdown between third party bond issuance costs and internal administrative costs for personnel.
According to Nevada Policy Research Institute's "Transparent Nevada" (latest data available are for 2011) WCSD has 38 "superintendents" of which 13 receive pay and benefits exceeding $100,000 per year and 29 "administrators" of which 13 receive pay & benefits of over $100,000 per year (does not include classroom teachers and principals).
How much in administrative salaries was paid out of capital funds?
Finally, unlike the State of Nevada, Washoe County, Reno and Sparks the WCSD has not furloughed personnel, curtailed raises or otherwise tightened its belt to keep outlays within available resources.
WCSD doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at email@example.com.