News - July 11, 2019 - by Ray Hagar
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom said on Nevada Newsmakers that he is ready to start working on a way to get more funding for the Clark County School District.
Segerblom has the chance to help increase tax revenue for the CCSD -- billed as the fifth-largest in the nation -- because the Nevada Legislature recently gave county commissions the authority to raise quarter-cent sales taxes specifically for education.
"I ran a campaign with the platform of, 'Give me the authority for a 1-cent sale tax so we can give $400 million to the school district,'" he told host Sam Shad. "I publicly ran on that and obviously was elected."
The CCSD has historically been plagued by management and administration issues. It currently has a $17 million budget deficit entering the new school year. Now, Segerblom must get his fellow commissioners on board with the potential tax hike.
"We'll see here in the coming months, Segerblom, a Democrat, said. "I think they (commissioners) are all very serious about looking at it but the devil is in the details.
Segerblom is confident voters will support the plan.
"The voters are there (in support) if they know the money is going to go to a specific thing," he said. "If it just money going to the bureaucrats, they say 'no way.' But if is a tax that goes to roads or schools, then I think they'll support it.
"Of course, one of the questions is: What is the school district going to do with the money?" Segerblom said.
That unanswered question is big for the commissioners.
Earlier this month, the commission indicated it was unwilling to commit to a potential tax increase without first meeting with the school trustees. The commission wants to know how the money would be used. A quarter-cent sales tax increase is estimated to raise about $108 million annually.
The commission will need two-thirds approval for the sales-tax increase. That level of support might be difficult to reach because of recent news about the CCSD, Segerblom said.
* Earlier this month, a district judge temporarily blocked the district's plan of eliminating 170 dean positions to help fix the budget deficit.
* Last month, secondary principals across the CCSD passed a no-confidence vote in Superintendent Jesus Jara, stemming from his decision on the deans.
* Recently, school trustees called for better district communication with the public.
"It is just one nightmare after another," Segerblom said, adding he has faith the district will operate better in the future.
"I think, honestly, that the school district is getting its act together," Segerblom said. "They are finally starting to get control of their budgets. If we do pass it (sales-tax increase), we want to make sure the money we give them is well spent, and will not just be thrown it into the pot."
Recent history does not bode well for proponents of the tax increase.
In 2013, the Legislature also passed a bill that would allow the Washoe County Commission to raise property and/or sales taxes to fund school maintenance and building projects. Yet the Washoe Commission denied the increase.
Segerblom lamented the process to raise money for schools is difficult. A former state senator, he wished there was a better way levy taxes.
He cited the Jim Gibbons' rule of needing a two-thirds majority to raise taxes in the Legislature as a major roadblock. Gibbons, a one-term governor, successfully sponsored the two-thirds bill when he was a Republican assemblyman from Reno.
Segerblom also acknowledged the regressive nature of the sales tax, since it impacts those in poverty more than those with wealth.
"When Jim Gibbons was able to put through the two-thirds taxation, we just couldn't raise taxes anymore," Segerblom said. "So at some point, you just have to say, 'Well, you can't let the perfect get in the way of the good. I don't like sales tax either, but it is the only tax that they can give us the authority to pass.
"I would love to raise property taxes and some other taxes that are less regressive but we need more money for schools and we need to step up to the plate," he said.
Segerblom has confidence in Superintendent Jara as the commission prepares to take on the school question.
"I've met with the guy. I think he is fantastic," Segerblom said of Jara. "He wants to go the right thing.
"I think he has the support of the school board and he has my support," Segerblom added. "Nobody is perfect. The way he rolled out getting rid of the deans was wrong. But the truth is that model of deans doing discipline is wrong."
In Clark County, school deans currently play a big part in the disciplining of students.