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East looking at furloughs as budget fix

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$500,000 sought from state

By Mercy Lopez

At the recommendation of Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez, the Las Vegas City School board unanimously approved the mid-year budget review during a special board meeting on Thursday morning. The district has previously said it is anticipating a $1.37 million shortfall in the current year’s budget, but on Thursday, the district appeared to be backing away from that figure.

“We projected a $1.3 million deficit … That number, as you (McNellis-Martinez) explained today, is not a true projection of the deficit in my mind. However, the board needs additional information,” Board President Felix Alderete said.

The board-approved mid-year review shows how the district would spend the $500,000 in emergency supplemental funding it is requesting from the state. The district says the emergency funds are needed to offset an expected shortfall.

McNellis-Martinez has previously reported that based on a discussion she had with Public Education Department officials earlier this fiscal year, she got the impression PED may be able to provide the district with $500,000.

The mid-year review paperwork, which includes the request for the emergency funds, was due to PED on Friday.

In other cost-cutting measures, McNellis-Martinez told the board, the district is looking at the possibility of implementing employee furloughs of 28 hours for employees making more than $20,000. The furloughs would be implemented before the end of the school year, although they might not be necessary if the state gives the East district more than $500,000 in emergency funds.

Alderete asked McNellis-Martinez how much the furloughs would save the district.

“Overall, just in salaries approximately $220,000 with the current employees the district has,” McNellis-Martinez responded. She added that the quoted savings does not include any cost savings from state and federal taxes.

“We understood way back before the school year how difficult this year was going to be (in terms of the budget) because of the state of the district,” Alderete said. “This issue of the budget has been on the mind of the board for the entire year, but I think what we need as a board is some assurances early … The board needs information on what the projected end-of-the-year cash condition is going to be.”

Mid-year reviews are required in order to receive  emergency funding.

“Our responsibility as a board as elected officials and as a governing body of this district is to make sure that as we move forward that the district is in good financial condition,” Alderete said.

Although the district is requesting $500,000, it is hoping that PED officials see that it needs more.

McNellis-Martinez told the board the district would create contingency plans that could be followed based on the district’s getting $500,000, based on the district getting no funding and based on the district getting more than the $500,000 requested.

“I believe that this administration has done an exceptional job in planning for what may or what may not happen,” McNellis-Martinez said. “My explanation to you of Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D means that on our books this is what was presented to the PED, this is what is in our system and this is what we need. On our notes, we say do you really think we are going to get this (emergency supplemental funding) and we make contingency plans based on that. I want to make it very clear and very explicit that there is one budget approved by the board and later by the PED. That is the budget that Las Vegas City Schools is operating under.”

She has said the financial condition of the district is the consequence of several years of late audits and unrecovered federal reimbursements dating as far back as 2007. She said the district is owed $1.2 million in reimbursements that have impacted the operating budget.