School district promises to Washoe Commission responsible use of AB46 dollars
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The Washoe County School District made its pitch for Assembly Bill 46 to Washoe County Commissioners last night at the second of three public hearings on the proposed tax increases. The legislature handed the bill over to the commission at the end of this past legislative session without a 2/3 vote or the vote of the people. It would raise sales and property taxes to fund the repair and rehabilitation of old schools.
Commissioner Vaughn Hartung says the district should anticipate the costs associated with old schools year in advances.
"When you build that school, you fence those funds for that school and as schools get older, yeah, you're going to have to add more money to that fund."
Much of the conversation focused on how well the district manages its budget and rollover bonds, which currently add up to about 94 million dollars. Superintendent Pedro Martinez says that money is already committed to other project, though. And he says rollover bonds are not a reliable stream of revenue, particularly since the recession.
Unlike other districts in the state, Washoe does not have a dedicated source of funding for capital projects.
"We will restrict this funding, we will make sure it's specifically used to be able to maintain these systems because frankly that's what should have happened"
Commissioners asked why the district doesn't look to downsize like the county was forced to do during the economic downturn. Martinez responded by saying schools are different from other kinds of public institution.
"The buildings get a lot of wear and tear. They are very different from city and county buildings, because these buildings are constantly in use."
Commissioner Humke says the district had a chance in the late 90s to ask the legislature to approve a funding source for capital projects, but the district did not pursue that route. He says he's not sure whether AB46 will pass, but, in the future, the district should look to the business community for support.
Without the revenue from Assembly Bill 46, the district says it would have to cut into its operational costs, which could include laying off employees or shutting down schools.
Last week, the commission decided to seek the opinion of a state judge on whether or not the tax increase is constitutional. At the meeting, there was some indication the district and county might be able to share the risk of any potential lawsuit.