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Majority of county voters favor tax hike to fix schools, survey says

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 (2 a.m.)

School district officials consider bond proposal

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KSNV coverage of the Clark County School District considering a new bond that would help repair schools and increase taxes, April 12, 2012.

A little more than half of Clark County voters support a tax hike under consideration by the Clark County School District to fund a $5.3 billion school improvement plan over the next decade.

That’s according to a preliminary survey released by R&R Partners on Thursday. The Las Vegas marketing firm — which has worked with the School District on previous bond measures — contracted public opinion polling company Anzalone Liszt Research to survey 403 randomly selected, registered Clark County voters from April 12 to 16.

The poll found that 55 percent of voters are in favor of a potential capital bond program; 40 percent are opposed. The poll has a margin of error of about 5 percent, with a 95 percent confidence level.

Although support for the tax hike was mixed, the majority of survey respondents said they agreed the School District needed to renovate aging schools and has overcrowded campuses and outdated technology.

About 70 percent of respondents agreed the School District needed to renovate older buildings. About 65 percent said Clark County schools were overcrowded. Perhaps not surprising: 92 percent of respondents said all schools should have adequate science laboratories, gyms and cafeterias.

The study was paid for by a political action committee recently formed by four former first ladies — Bonnie Bryan, Dawn Gibbons, Dema Guinn and Sandy Miller — "to advocate for the passage of a ballot question in support of capital projects for public schools,” according to PAC filing papers.

Three of the former first ladies were present Thursday afternoon at a special School Board meeting to discuss and perhaps authorize a November ballot question seeking voter approval for the capital bond program.

However, the School Board had only budgeted an hourlong special meeting to discuss the $5.3 billion capital improvement plan, right before its regularly scheduled Thursday night School Board meeting.

The special meeting ran nearly an hour late as School Board members deliberated whether they needed an extra five days to submit questions about the various bond proposals, much to the exasperation of a packed audience waiting for the regular meeting to begin.

The School Board eventually voted to recess and reconvene the meeting on May 2, at which time it is expected to approve one of two options for a bond program. Both options would raise property taxes from the current 55 cents to 77 cents, which equates to a tax hike of $74 per year on a $100,000 home.

The first option would be a traditional bond measure. Voter approval of a property tax hike would raise $550 million in bonding capacity for the School District, enough to raise the debt limit to allow the district to issue bonds by 2014. At that time, the district would go to voters again for approval on a 10-year bond program, which would generate $5.1 billion to fund renovations and replacement schools.

The second option would fund renovations on a “pay as you go” plan. A six-year capital levy would raise $669 million, enough to raise the debt limit to allow the district to issue bonds by 2018. At that time, the district would go to voters again to approve a 10-year bond program, which would generate $4.7 billion for renovations and school replacements.

(A couple of School Board members — notably Lorraine Alderman and John Cole — expressed support of the second option on Thursday.)

Gibbons, Guinn and Miller all spoke in favor of the School District’s proposed school improvement plan. They argued there was an equity issue between some of the newer and older schools in the 357-school district.

“Schools, not just education, but actual brick-and-mortar buildings, are the anchors (of the community),” said Miller, who spearheaded the formation of the PAC.

As the 1998 bond program comes to a close, the School District is looking for additional funds to maintain and renovate its current buildings. Some schools, such as the 58-year-old J.D. Smith Middle School, are in poor physical condition, Miller said.

Carolyn Edwards

Carolyn Edwards

There are 10 to 20 schools that need to be replaced, and upwards of 30 that need to be renovated, Gibbons said, adding that the state does not provide money for school construction.

“We want to be here for you because we believe in you,” Gibbons said, addressing the School Board. “Let’s work together for a real solution today that will pay off in the future.”

The average age of a school in Clark County is 20 years old, which may not seem that old, compared with schools in other parts of the country. However, 30 years old is quite old, Guinn remarked.

When a building gets that old, “we blow them up,” she said, jokingly at first but turning serious. “The public needs to know the plight of our schools … and how dire our situation is.”

However, the public also needs to know what bonding option is being pursued by the School Board and why, said School Board member Carolyn Edwards, who was visibly disappointed about the board’s decision to schedule such a short meeting for an issue of such magnitude.

By scheduling only an hour to deliberate the matter, the School Board was forced to table the discussion to next week, Edwards said.

Further, more specific details about how the School District plans to use the increased property tax revenue and bond sales are unclear, Edwards said.

The School District in February said it plans use the majority of the capital dollars — about $3.4 billion — toward renovating an untold number of schools and replacing nine aging schools. Edwards said she wanted to know how many schools exactly are scheduled for renovations, and which nine schools are scheduled to be replaced.

Although she wants to ensure the decision-making process is thoroughly deliberated and transparent to the public, the School Board doesn’t have much time to dawdle, Edwards added.

If it decides to move forward with its capital bond proposal, the School District must submit its ballot question for the property tax increase by the third week of July.

“I hoped to reach a decision today because we have to make a decision soon,” Edwards said. “We can’t delay. We need to do this as quickly as possible.”

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Discussion: 27 comments so far…

  1. R&R Partners did a study and people in Clark County are in favor of taxes? Really? You mean the 25% un-employed are in favor of higher taxes? And wow the board actually aloted a full hour for discussion. Here we go again.

  2. If 55% think its a good idea to add new taxes, let them register to pay them and leave the rest of us alone. The economy is comming back and should fix the problem until the progressives force another downturn.

  3. Vote NO,,,,$5.3 Billion Dollars,,, Get the Money from a LOTTERY in Nevada,,,,The WELL is DRY

  4. For those that believe that a Lottery will solve all the states problems when it comes to schools you need to do some research.

    In most states that have Lotteries 34% of the Lottery sales go to schools. Sounds like a lot. Fact is Lottery money in most states is no more then 1.5% of schools total budget income.

    A Lottery is not going to fix the problems here in Nevada.

  5. "Majority of county voters favor tax hike"

    That's a bold statement from a poll of a pathetic 403 people, did they conduct this poll on their lunch break? Also, 55%(of 403 people) favor the hike and the poll claims a 5% margin of error, while technically a majority, it's pretty slim and definitely a misleading headline. Put it to vote at election time and we will find out, oh, they don't want to do that because most of the people in favor of higher taxes, don't pay any and also don't vote.

  6. It is a proven fact that the majority of polls come to the conclusion that the poll taker wants.

  7. People claim to worry about the future of America and these are the comments we have in regards to funding our schools. we're screwed.

  8. Tax the casinos for better schools. NV is #50 in education. The state legislature is run for the benefit of casinos. They won't allow a lottery that could cover education. The casinos and the legislature think it is all about casinos, so let them pay an additional tax. If the state were interested in expanding the job base to industries other than casinos this wouldn't be a problem. You can't have it both ways and be successful.

  9. A quote from the website of public opinion polling company Anzalone Liszt Research:

    "We're especially proud of our role helping elect President Obama in 2008. ALR polled in seven states for the Obama general election campaign, including the critical "red to blue" states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia -- and we're excited to be a part of the President's 2012 re-election campaign. We also have a depth of success electing Democrats in tough states and districts, winning more Republican-held seats at the federal level over the past three cycles than any other polling firm."

    Regardless of your political bent or your opinion on this issue, this firm does not exactly promise unbiased polling. Perhaps the term "unbiased polling" is now archaic.

  10. Let's get serious. Not one penny will go to education. The money will be spent to prop up their failing pension plan. If private companies failed to fund their pension plans like the school districts do, someone would go to jail.... amazing the double standards, and these clowns are the ones we trust to educated our children

  11. A tax hike won't fix schools. You'll have the same poor teachers and administrators and kids who can't behave because their parents don't parent.

  12. I gonna have to like disagree and say that poll is BS. Besides Las Vegas has probably reached the point where remodeling should be our style trend.

    The boiler-room pictured in this article would look amazing if they simply filled the holes, sweep-up, and painted the place. The boring landscaping can be updated on the cheap. Old furniture is functional and does not have to be the latest style to work.

    We have plenty of empty commercial properties throughout CC which could be turned into schools. Why soak the taxpayers for new construction when we have thousands of desperate lenders in need of tenants?

    Enough of this consumer mentality that everything has to be the latest to work. Well newsflash, it isn't working. What we need is tradition. What we need is reference points. What we need is a focus on basics and a deep respect for History.

  13. No we're not. There are so many rolling over bond issues to keep building schools. They do not need as much revenue as they already get. And what is CCSD going to do with all the money as 100,000 illegal students start LEAVING?

  14. 23rd in funding. 51st in results. Money is NOT the solution. Arizona spends about $1,000 per student per year LESS than Nevada and Arizona gets graduates who can read and write.

  15. By any chance were the 403 randomly selected, registered Clark County voters from April 12 to 16 CCSD teachers or their family members?

  16. Public schools sadly are just a black hole that no amount of money can fix. I don't have children, but if I did, they would attend private school.

  17. patchem makes a valid point. I have a place in Montana. Mill levys were passed there to repair several old schools needing repair. The money was promptly placed into the general fund where it was spent completely on teacher salaries. Now, not surprisingly, they are currently asking for another 20 million to be used to repair the same schools. It's for the kids......rolling eyes.

  18. As a CC voter & taxpayer, you're looking for me to support a 40% property tax increase? You're going to have to present a much more convincing case, preferably one that has a "renovations & technology upgrades-only" option. I'd like to see each project identified separately, with a contractor estimated cost and pictures of what's wrong if it's for repair/renovation, all posted on CCSD's web site for public review. Having a group of former first ladies politic for it isn't at all convincing.

  19. I plan on voting NO to this and any other tax increase until Clark County Firefighter pay and benefits are brought back to this planet. If the county needs money they can start by freezing any and all government employee pay increases and REDUCING pay and benefits for ANYONE in government making more than $100k per year.
    Read my lips "NO NEW TAXES"

  20. "However, 30 years old is quite old, Guinn remarked"

    Actually 30 years is not "old" for a building at all...there are thousands of buildings that are hundreds of years old in this country, it just depends how they have been maintained.
    Of course the county has played a shell game with the maintenance, cutting it to the bone and letting buildings go into disrepair, probably so they can give the firefighters more pay. We are wise to your shenanigans politicians and I look forward to seeing some of you in the unemployment line.

  21. CCSD can shove it where the sun doesn't shine. They're not getting a penny more.

    He's a suggestion for the board members, loose the architects from designing the projects and hire teams to build schools with costs and budget in mind and use that surplus to pay for higher education.

    When you do the above, try to build schools without the opulence that is a waste of our money that does nothing to help teach students. You've been wasting our money on school constuction for too many years where it's sickening.

    I am sick and tired of hearing about what they don't have, they have enough. They just simply have to practice what we've been taught, live within your means and reduce spending when funds are tight. In words that I am sure all will understand, there ain't no titty for the kitty when the milk when dry.

  22. If I have to pay more taxes for the purpose of repairing and replacing schools that are in disrpair or beyond repair then I want a concrete system of controls that insure every dollar is accounted for and is used only for this exact purpose.

    If money is to be spent for updated and upgraded computer labs and gyms, then I want insurance that that money will be spent on proven systems that do what they are intended to do, and what is necessary. No pie in the sky experiments, no funds diverted to unnecessary and unrelated equipment or facilities, no funds diverted for salaries and benefits.

    With electric rates, water rates, vehicle fees and many other governmentally controlled assessments rising, we can't afford another $100 bucks only to be wasted and used for things not intended. Every department and utility is trying to raise its fees, taxes, etc. and they add up to real money and more than we can afford to be wasted.

  23. That equates to $18,000 per pupil in Clark County. Now ask those same people in they are in favor of it.