West must cut budget by 4 percent

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By David Giuliani

The West Las Vegas school district has received the news about how much it will have to cut from its budget.

West Business Manager Dawn Biagianti said the state has informed the district that it must trim 4 percent, or $527,491, from its operating budget.

“This is probably the biggest cut I’ve ever had to deal with. This really hurts, and I know it’s very difficult. Until we had the final information from the Public Education Department, we weren’t sure exactly what the dollar amount would be,” Biagianti said at a recent board meeting.

Handing out a multi-page spreadsheet listing proposed budget cuts, Biagianti told the board she was trying to stay away from cutting salaries or reducing staff, as many other districts are having to do.

“I’m not saying that won’t happen, but at this point I’m trying to avoid that,” Biagianti said. “I went through every single line, and tried to figure out what what we could cut and come up with $527,000. Try to keep in mind we’re using the stimulus fund to help us cover some of these negatives. But it’s still a net cut of over $300,000.”    

Board member David Romero said he foresaw huge budget cuts back in October and was disappointed the district failed to plan ahead for the expected shortfall.

“I know you worked hard Dawn (Biagianti), but I think the way this was done is disappointing. As I have said before, we should have been addressing this since last October. We should have taken care of this a little at a time, instead of dealing with this big lump sum. Now we will have to make a hard decision on how to cut $500,000 in three months. And for the record, this has nothing to do with you Dawn. All this happened before you arrived,” Romero said.

Biagianti said ideally, if the district had the numbers in October, everyone could have begun planning for the cuts.

“We did have numbers in October. We knew we would have to cut at least 2 percent,” Romero said. “Now we have another 2 percent we have to deal with.”

Member Gary Gold told Romero that when managing a large budget, cuts are never easy.

“I don’t think you can ever plan to cut a budget. It just hits you, and when you manage a budget like this, you hope you’ll never have to cut it. But whether you cut 2 percent here or 2 percent there, it still adds up to 4 percent. Can you always plan better? Of course, but when it comes to these kinds of cuts, you hold off to the very end hoping you don’t have to lay off teachers, or cut athletics,” Gold said.

Gold said even if the district started cutting money from the budget back in October, it would still have to deal with the current mandated cuts.

Member Kenny Lujan disagreed.

“We knew we were facing a 2 percent cut in October, and we could have started planning then,” Lujan said. “That’s how you plan a budget.”

Board Chairwoman Christine Ludi said that $500,000 is a lot of money, but compared to other districts, West’s reductions would be more manageable.

“I wish there were zero cuts, but with your (Biagianti) work, the board is more aware of where we have to cut,” Ludi said.

The board voted to send the district’s budget adjustment requests to the state; Romero was the lone dissenter.

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In other money matters, Superintendent Jim Abreu said the district received an audit report from the accounting firm Griego Professional Services. He noted that the district received the top rating.

“We received a glowing recommendation, we did a really good job, and we are making progress. He (Griego) said we are really making progress, and at the same time getting rid of some of the earlier audit findings on internal controls and charter school issues. So the auditors were very complimentary, and we are very happy with the audit,” Abreu said.