Money for nothing

You’ve probably read in the news recently that the Clark County School District had to freeze teacher salaries again because the school district doesn’t have the money to give its teachers the raises they have earned.

And, you’re probably thinking, “Didn’t we just get a bunch of money from the State? Why is there no money for our teachers?” (And in case you’re wondering just how much we got in education funds for this biennium, here’s a quick refresher.)

Well, the big answer to understanding education funding is pretty complicated, but we’re here to hopefully help whittle it down to just the basics. Bottom line is there are three buckets of money that go towards our schools. These buckets are strictly defined and you can’t move money from one bucket to another.

Bucket #1 is for capital improvements. That’s it, just capital improvements. That means funds for building new schools or refurbishing old buildings, etc. These funds come from bonds that are paid back with a county-wide property tax. (The 2015 CCSD Capital Improvement Plan Executive Summary Updatecan be found here.)

Bucket #2 is for categorical funds. A number of bills during the 2015 Legislative Session established programs to be funded such as Zoom Schools, Read By Third Grade, and full day Kindergarten. Specified amounts were allocated to only pay for these different programs. (Here’s a partial list of new education initiatives from the Approved Budget for the 2015-2017 Biennium.)

Bucket #3 is for the DSA (Distributive School Account). The DSA funds everything else having to do with K-12 education. These funds come from a variety of places like slot taxes, property taxes, and the State General Fund, to name a few. (For those die-hard financial fans out there, here’s a link to DSA Account Summary for the 2015-2107 Biennium.)

So, to go back to that original question about why there is no money to pay our teachers, while Buckets #1 and #2 received additional funds during the 2015 Legislative Session, Bucket #3 did not.

In fact, Bucket #3 decreased by $15 per pupil in Clark County, and combined with increased expenses, CCSD says it faces a $67 million deficit. Roughly 85 percent of Bucket #3 money goes to salaries and benefits, with the remaining dollars being spent on utilities, supplies, fuel and vehicle maintenance. (Here’s CCSD’s Comprehensive Annual Budget Report For Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015.)

For a more detailed explanation of funding education in our state, you can read The 2015 Nevada Plan for School Finance.

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