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New law could give district funds for projects

Long overdue capital improvement projects for Silver State schools could proceed sometime this year after Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Senate Bill 207 into law on March 4.

The action gives Nevada school districts the authority to extend a bond rollover program to school construction needs.

The immediate impact for the Nye County School District is still being reviewed.

There are nearly $17 million in capital improvement projects identified by the school district.

District Chief Financial Officer Ray Ritchie took a wait-and-see approach after learning about the news. He said the governor’s action may not benefit the district at all.

“After talking with our consulting company they indicated that we need to wait for the bill to come out, in order to see what the language actually says because our most recent election we were turned down,” Ritchie said.

County voters turned down a Nov. 4 ballot question that would have authorized the district to continue issuing general obligation school bonds to finance the acquisition, construction, improvement and equipping of school facilities.

Ritchie said if the language in SB 207 is favorable and the district has the ability to bond, construction projects may begin later this year.

At least one school in the northern district needs to be replaced.

Tonopah’s Elementary and Middle School is more than 50 years old, while nearly every campus in the district is need of some type of repair or renovation.

Officials want an additional modular building at the southern district site on West Street at a cost of $160,000.

Heating and air conditioning retrofits will cost $140,000, while work on the roof and asphalt resurfacing are expected to run roughly $75,000 and $50,000 respectively.

Repairs at the district’s transportation and baintenance building are estimated at $116,000.

In the southern attendance area alone, costs for completing the projects are expected to exceed $8.4 million.

The total for the entire district, according to officials, stands at $17,736,370.

“If that all came to pass, we would look at our list of projects to see if we could do Tonopah Elementary and Middle School or some of the other projects, or even both,” Ritchie said.

School District Board Trustee Robert Mobley agreed with Ritchie on how soon some of the projects can get underway.

“We need to look at what the specifics of the bill are,” he said. “We have to read into it and see what the ramifications are to determine what can and cannot be done.”

Mobley also spoke about why he believed the bills became a partisan issue in Carson City, with a majority of democrats supporting the legislation.

Assembly members voted 27-14 to approve SB 207, while the 14 votes against the measure all came from Republicans, many of whom said they were concerned that the bill could be seen as a tax increase.

The Senate voted 15-4 to approve the measure.

Another bill awaiting the governor’s signature could also help the school district construction needs.

Senate Bill 119, which would exempt school and university construction projects from Nevada’s prevailing wage law, passed the Assembly on Thursday by a narrow 23-19 vote.

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