By Selwyn Harris
Nye County School District staff is enjoying what appears to be good news.
During Tuesday night’s board meeting, trustees were presented a tentative balanced budget for the 2012-13 school year.
Superintendent Dr. Rob Roberts said that as a result, the district would not be forced to lay off staff as they have had to do in previous years.
“We currently anticipate there will be no requirement for additional reduction in force this year. I attribute that to the cooperation from the Administrators Association, the Teacher’s Association, and the Classified Association all willing to make concessions in their negotiated contract that allowed us to save approximately $1 million,” he said.
Early this year, all three unions agreed to concessions.
The Nye County Support Staff Organization accepted a 1.75 percent wage reduction as part of the agreement.
Roberts said that if the unions did not agree to the concessions, more layoffs would have resulted.
“It’s the first time in three years that we’ve been able to accomplish this. We’ve done lots of things over the last three years trying to make our budget balanced and we are grateful that we are able to do that. We now feel like we have our house in order. I think it shows that they want to be part of the solution to the financial problems that we are all facing. By all of us working together, we were able to accomplish an objective which is to try and have as least impact on the classroom as possible,” he said.
Roberts noted that overall, the primary goals for the district are to provide a safe and secure environment and student achievement.
He also noted that a House Resolution bill if passed could provide even more support for the district.
“That bill HR 3599 would extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act for five years as well as fully fund the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program for the next five years. Those programs were created to help rural counties and school districts that include a large portion of federal land by providing funds to compensate for the counties’ inability to levy property taxes on federal land located within our jurisdiction,” he said.
Roberts said the money totaling $800,000, was part of last year’s budget but the district did not receive it this year.
He added that, the union concessions were used to make up for the shortfall this year and he’s hopeful that lawmakers will eventually vote to pass the resolution.
“There’s still a possibility should the House of Representatives pass that House Resolution that we will get additional funds next year. Whenever it passes, it will be approved for the next school year. That’s something we can’t plan on because it hasn’t happened. If it does happen, it would give us the possibility of being able to possibly re-employ teachers and other staff that were laid off the last couple of years. It would mean a lot to us and that would be a board decision,” he said.
As far as learning exactly when and if the house would pass the resolution, Roberts noted that he is working diligently to find out.
“I have personally called Dr. Joe Heck, a member of Congress, I have personally called Mark Amodei, who is also a member of Congress and asked that same question and we don’t know. It hasn’t been brought up for a vote,” he said.
Roberts made mention to the fact that Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to extend the so-called Sunset Taxes made a tremendous difference in terms of education in the Silver State.
Revenues from those taxes exceeded more than $200 million.
“The good news is that revenues will be there that allowed them to fund the Distributive School Account to the level we are right now as we move forward. Without those taxes, all of the school districts in Nevada would be in the process of reducing their staffs once again. It would be a huge reduction in force if they did not maintain that or find a replacement for it,” he said.
School Board President Traci Ward made her feelings known about the district’s budget.
Ward said she is extremely pleased that no staff members will be laid off this year.
“All of the district staff took a pay cut, so we did balance it. It always has to be balanced but this is a first in a long time that we don’t have to lay people off. The concessions made a big difference. If they hadn’t, we would be cutting more people again,” Ward said.
In other district news, administrators are in the process of interviewing applicants to replace Assistant Superintendent Dale Norton.
In February, Norton was chosen by trustees to lead the district after Roberts announced his decision to step down after more than 10 years at the helm.
Norton said the process is moving right along.
“We closed the application process on March 31,and we had seven active applicants and of the seven, there were three in-district candidates that applied. There were three in-state and one from out of state,” he said.
Norton also noted that staff has already whittled the number down to four bonafide applicants.
“We did some background checks prior to the interview and we interviewed those four on Wednesday. We went through everything and looked at the top candidates and we’ll be making a decision by Friday of next week. There was one that was in-district. The other three are in-state,” he said.