East board discusses finances

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Budget planning for next year already under way

By Mercy Lopez

The Las Vegas City Schools district has struggled with its budget for years, but on Thursday Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez informed the board that her administration is already getting the budget planning process in place for the upcoming school year.

McNellis-Martinez told the board the district’s financials appear to be in good shape, although problems with the late audits still linger.

Board President Gloria Lovato Pacheco said she is not anticipating an increase in next year’s budget and asked McNellis-Martinez to notify staff as soon as possible if there will be any personnel cuts.

Late last year, the district’s former independent auditor, Griego Professional Services, submitted the district’s 2011-2012 audit to the state auditor’s office. That audit has still not been made public because the state auditor is still reviewing it.

The 2012-2013 audit, which was due to the state auditors office on November 15 is still outstanding. District officials have said they are working diligently to complete the 2012-2013 audit, but they contend that they are running behind due to the tardiness of Griego Professional Services on the previous audit.

Board member Luis Ortiz said the budget process should not be so difficult, as the main priority should be the students’ needs.

“The analysis to me is so simple. You break out your schools, you break out your FTEs (full time employee), and you put per school a certain amount of educational assistants in the actual classroom … That’s where you start. You start at that bottom nucleus on what makes a school run,” Ortiz said. “It isn’t difficult.”

His comments didn’t sit well with Lovato Pacheco, who told Ortiz he does not understand how the budget is developed, adding that it’s not as simple as he makes it out to be.

McNellis-Martinez said the district would have community input meetings as required by the state.

“I know we have to have community input, but the community is not the one that is going to design the budget,” Board member Felix Alderete said. “It is the administration. The board is going to be the one that approves it, not the community.”

The tardiness of the audits has had a ripple affect on the district, limiting the state funds it has been able to receive.

During a board meeting on Thursday evening McNellis-Martinez told the board she is unsure if the district still has allocated money to purchase a new bus. The state Legislature approved money for the bus, but because the district is late on its audits, the state has refused to release the money.

McNellis-Martinez said said the district would be included in the December bond sale for the state PED department.

“We have not heard that we have been denied that,” McNellis-Martinez said.

Lovato Pacheco said the normal protocol with state money is if it is not spent by the next legislative session it reverts back to the state’s general fund.

Board member Ernesto Salazar said the district would ask for an extension to use the money for the bus if it is still available.

Additionally, the board approved a letter to the state Public Education Department seeking emergency supplemental funding for this school year. The district has previously been told it isn’t eligible for the emergency funds because its audits aren’t up to date.  

The board plans to meet for a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss state legislative requests. and on Thursday evening the board will convene for a regular board meeting.