As I pointed out in my Jan. 17 column, the Washoe County School District talks publicly of its “general fund” exclusively, claiming they spend only $6,800 per pupil.
Yet, when you total up not only the general fund but all the other funds, including the building and sites fund, the capital projects fund, the enterprise fund, the special education fund, class size reduction fund, the special revenue fund, the internal service fund, the debt service fund and the retirement fund, the spending jumps to an amazing $13,057 per pupil!
But the WCSD merely follows in the footsteps of its parent, the state of Nevada.
With debate now centered on the state making up an estimated billion dollar shortfall, how much we actually spend and charting its growth is fundamental.
When reviewing Nevada’s general fund spending — which is all the government folks ever mention — in 2001 it totaled $1,826,553,944.
General fund spending in 2005 totaled $2,773,519,360 — a growth of almost a billion dollars in four years.
And general fund spending for 2009 is $3,211,464,895 — a growth of another half a billion. With a billion to make up in $3.2 billion budget, a tax increase of at least 30 percent will be required.
But, like the school district, these figures do not reflect the complete picture. The general fund, while the largest, is only a single fund in a multilayered government spending portfolio. When you dig deeper and see the total spending from all revenue sources you get the big picture and it is not pretty. All of the following figures, by the way, come from Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau and its bi-annual “Summary of Appropriations and Authorizations.”
Here is the full story:
General fund spending / total spending from all revenue sources
2001 – $1,826,553,944 / $5,429,616,392
2002 – $2,018,623,392 / $5,783,278,295
2003 – $2,303,075,904 / $6,595,398,481
2004 – $2,575,341,124 / $6,966,438,074
2005 – $2,773,519,360 / $7,530,677,339
2006 – $3,068,280,393 / $8,168,292,930
2007 – $3,266,993,072 / $8,865,101,513
2008 – $3,535,128,336 / $9,347,362,014
2009 – $3,211,464,895 / $9,518,809,535
2010 – $3,336,977,011 / $9,492,193,721
As these numbers demonstrate, using only the general fund as a focus point shows only about one-third of the total spent by state government. But any reasonable person reviewing the amazing growth in spending in only a single decade will not come away with any sympathy for a supposedly starving state bureaucracy. Do we need to increase taxes to make up for the billion dollar shortfall? What about cutting spending back to the per person spending (per capita) levels of, say, 2001? But what about population growth? And inflation?
Nevada’s population from the U.S. Census Bureau (spending per capita):
2001 – 2,094,827 ($2,592)
2002 – 2,167,867 ($2,668)
2003 – 2,241,700 ($2,942)
2004 – 2,332,898 ($2,986)
2005 – 2,414,807 ($3,119)
2006 – 2,495,529 ($3,273)
2007 – 2,565,382 ($3,456)
2008 – 2,600,167 ($3,595)
2009 – 2,640,000 ($3,606)
After adjusting for inflation, the 2001 per person spending in today’s cheapened dollars would be $3,140. Even after adjusting for population growth and inflation, if Nevada spent the same per person in 2010 that it did in 2001, our spending would be in the $8.3 billion range — more than a billion dollars below the legislatively approved budget.
Looks like we may have found where to make up that billion dollar shortfall.
Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks and owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.