East officials say $500K in cuts needed

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Questions remain over finances

By Mercy Lopez

The drama over Las Vegas City Schools’  budget woes continues.

During a board meeting last week, district officials said the state Public Education Department has assured them that the east side school district will receive $500,000 in emergency supplemental funding.

District officials said they met with PED Deputy Secretary Paul Aguilar earlier this month, and he provided the assurance.  

“It has been a really challenging year,” Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez said.

She said that despite the assurance that the district will be awarded $500,000 in emergency supplemental funding, administrators will still need to decrease the current year budget by $500,000. The fiscal year ends June 30.

McNellis-Martinez is, however, still holding out hope that the state will come through with even more than the $500,000 she says was promised.

District officials have previously reported that the district was anticipating a $1.37 million dollar deficit this school year although the exact amount remained unclear.

State Public Education Department spokesman Larry Behrens said last week that the district submitted a request for $1.8 million in emergency supplemental funding. During last week’s board meeting, school board president Gloria Lovato Pacheco called that information incorrect.

She said his title should be public “mis-information” officer.

The budget deficit has caused the district to impose 3.5 furlough days for some district employees. McNellis-Martinez said she has taken seven furlough days herself.

Talk about future furloughs did not sit well with board vice-president Ernesto Salazar. He said additional furloughs would just create more animosity with the staff, causing poor morale.

“I would not be in favor of having another furlough for staff,” Salazar said.

The district’s budget woes were caused, in part, by un-recovered requests for reimbursements going back several years and by late audits.

McNellis Martinez said she felt one of the reasons the PED is providing the $500,000 in emergency supplemental funding is because of the unpaid requests for reimbursements.

She has previously reported the district is owed $1.2 million in these reimbursements, and that it had a devastating impact on the district’s operating budget.

Salazar expressed concerns about next year’s budget. McNellis-Martinez said the district will build next year’s budget in a manner that ensures  there is no deficit.

She said the district is looking at ways to bring in additional revenue and is also working with district Finance Director Mari Hillis on identifying possible cuts for next year.

Some of those cuts could include not filling vacancies created by retirements, reconsidering a reduction in force  and looking at class sizes.  McNellis-Martinez said she, personally, has taken steps to save the district money. Among the examples she cited is that she doesn’t charge the district for out-of-towm meetings and conferences she attends in her own vehicle, and she hasn’t sought reimbursement for expenses.

PED told the Optic last week that West Las Vegas School District had requested $350,000 in emergency supplemental funding and that the department is currently reviewing the applications submitted by both east and west districts.