To put that figure in perspective, only $73 million in cuts have been made in the last four years combined, evidence that the effects of the economic recession on government budgets are just now reaching a critical mass.
WCSD Superintendent Heath Morrison outlined an initial round of budget cuts on Monday during a press conference at the Robert Mitchell Elementary School in Sparks.
He proposed trimming nearly $35 million through the use of one-time contingency fund monies ($13.3 million); reducing the district’s ending fund balance ($2.9 million); savings from health care negotiations with employee unions ($3 million); deferring new textbooks for a year ($2 million); increasing class sizes in grades 1 through 3 by two students, which would result in the layoff of 94 teachers ($6.6 million); making cuts to programs, such as sexual education courses and middle school sports; and slashing 85 administrative staffing positions ($7 million).
But even with these reductions, WCSD officials must still find an additional $40 million to slash, a prospect that would leave an undoubted impact on school children in northern Nevada.
“Cutting $40 million more will be detrimental to the future of education in Washoe County,” Morrison said in prepared statements.
When it comes to those cuts, nothing is off the table, he added.
To illustrate just what these additional cuts could look like, Morrison said raising class sizes for all grade levels by six students and eliminating 463 teachers would produce only $27 million in savings.
“This is something that scares me,” he said, adding that additional administrative staffing cuts, school closures and elimination of arts, music and athletics programs will be points of discussion in future budget hearings.
Recently retired state Sen. Bill Raggio was in attendance Monday, where he addressed an avenue of contention he thinks can limit “draconian” cuts to education.
Raggio orchestrated a tax increase in 2009 that is set to expire in June. But if retained, an estimated $650 million could be generated over the next fiscal biennium — a revenue stream that is sorely needed, Raggio said.
But it will take a level of cooperation from both parties.
“Compromise is not a four-letter word,” he said.
The WCSD will host a series of budget town hall meetings in May, each open to the public, in order to address where the remaining cuts will be applied.
Galena High School: 6:30 p.m. on May 4
Wooster High School: 10:30 a.m. on May 7
McQueen High School: 6:30 p.m. on May 11
Reed High School: 6:30 p.m. on May 19
Hug High School: 6:30 p.m. on May 25
For more information and to answer a budget survey, visit www.washoe.k12.nv.us/community/legislative-session.