CCSD air-conditioning woes unrelated to failure of tax-increase push

District narrative sets stage for another campaign to increase your taxes

By Victor Joecks
  • Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Clark County School District’s Board of Trustees is already plotting to increase property taxes in 2014 or 2016.

At a work session yesterday, board members bemoaned voters’ 2-to-1 rejection of CCSD’s Question 2 property-tax increase last fall and discussed ways to pass a new bond rollover in 2014 or 2016. Trustee Dr. Linda Young brainstormed ways to convince voters to accept yet-higher property taxes, and Trustee Deanna Wright complained that “people don’t understand the scope of the problem.”

Trustee Lorraine Alderman called the voters’ rejection of the Question 2 property-tax increase a “crisis situation” and brought up the fact that two Las Vegas high schools — Durango and Valley — sent students home early this week because of problems with the schools’ air-conditioning units.

CCSD has a history of disingenuously using A/C problems to try and gin up support for property-tax increases, and this week’s high school closures are perfect examples of this trend.

In pushing for Question 2, CCSD released a list of projects that would come from the $669 million tax increase. That list, however, included no funding for A/C repairs or replacements at Durango or Valley. Indeed, it directed no money toward either high school for any projects.

This isn’t surprising, given that over the last 20 years both schools received millions of dollars in upgrades and repairs from previous bond campaigns. Durango, built just 20 years ago, has received over $7 million in upgrades. Valley High School, built in 1964, has received over $63 million, including almost $10 million for an HVAC upgrade from the 1998 bond.

In the heat of last year’s campaign, CCSD officials used A/C breakdowns at 47 elementary schools to push the tax increase. CCSD’s chief lobbyist, Joyce Haldeman, put out a press release on Sept. 5, 2012, entitled, “Air conditioning failures at schools highlight need for CCSD ballot initiative.” In response, NPRI pointed out that, with 357 schools, A/C breakdowns were inevitable.

In responding to NPRI, Haldeman then admitted that “[m]any of the 47 school HVAC systems that experienced outages during the first week of school [in 2012] did so because of maintenance issues that are not capital related...” (Emphasis added.)

Apparently, district officials believe this old ploy still has mileage in it.

In a district with 357 school buildings, A/C breakdowns shouldn’t be a crisis. In Clark County’s notorious heat, they’re entirely predictable. Indeed, that’s precisely why CCSD already has a maintenance budget.

What should be of the most concern to taxpayers is that even though voters have just spoken, CCSD trustees are doing everything they can to make sure this manufactured crisis doesn’t go to waste.

This is only the beginning of two to four years of such stories, but now you know the rest of the story.

Victor Joecks is communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more visit http://npri.org.


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