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Budget woes plague school district
by Jessica Carner
Jun 04, 2011 | 1547 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Washoe County School’s Superintendent Heath Morrison spent part of Friday morning explaining how the state’s budget agreement will impact the district and his options for dealing with the less than expected but still large financial shortfall.
Washoe County School’s Superintendent Heath Morrison spent part of Friday morning explaining how the state’s budget agreement will impact the district and his options for dealing with the less than expected but still large financial shortfall.
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RENO — The Washoe County School District will have to cut less from its budget over the next two years than was originally projected, but still faces a shortfall that could translate into wage concessions and layoffs for faculty and staff.

Superintendent Heath Morrison met with members of the press on Friday to announce that instead of having to find a way to cut $75 million from the district’s budget each of the next two years, WCSD must cut $53 million per year from its estimated $500 million operating budget.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and state legislators on Wednesday reached a final budget agreement, and since that time the school district has been working to determine how to absorb the cuts it now knows it faces. Morrison is recommending cost-saving measures such as deferment of textbook purchases, increasing class sizes and making cuts to Central Services and Direct School Support. He also has recommended dipping into the district’s contingency fund, but said that is not a long-term solution.

“We can’t just budget in a one-year only fashion,” he said, adding the district has been fiscally responsible and built up contingency funds. “We are using those (contingency funds) now.”

Even if WCSD implements Morrison’s recommendations, which would result in a savings of $34.8 million per year, the district still must find a way to trim $18.2 million more from the budget. Morrison said WCSD currently is negotiating with employee associations to reduce wages by up to 7.5 percent. Some employees also could lose their jobs, he said.

“This is the most difficult thing I have ever done,” Morrison said. “Right now all I can do is keep the employees informed.”

Morrison said wage reductions and layoffs have been looked at as a last resort throughout the budget process. He now fears losing good teachers if salaries are cut.

“This is my second year as superintendent here,” Morrison said, adding he is pleased with the changes the district has implemented and the hard work of the teachers that has resulted in higher graduation rates and better test scores.

“The worst part about this job so far,” he said, is to tell the teachers and principals who are putting forth all their effort to educate the students in Washoe County that their wages are being reduced or they no longer will have a job.

The school district must file its final budget with the Nevada Department of Taxation within 30 days.
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