How to make $200 million look like peanuts

Patrick Gibbons

Walt Rulffes, the Superintendent of Public Schools at the Clark County School District, said during testimony before the Nevada Legislature that CCSD faces $200 million in cuts (local and state revenue losses). He intended to alarm legislators by informing them that the General Fund reductions would be just a portion of the losses facing his school district.

But if the figure is true, $200 million in reductions over a biennium is peanuts to the Clark County School District. District revenues projected for 2009-10 alone amounted to $3.038 billion. This means losing $200 million in a biennium amounts to a loss of just 6.6 percent for a SINGLE year. For the biennium, the reduction would likely be less than 4 percent of all revenues.

$200 million is small fries when compared to all the money spent by CCSD. In the last biennium, CCSD budgeted for $6.14 billion in revenue. The operating budget itself (which excludes things like debt services, food services, transportation and capital expenditures) spent $4.04 billion in the biennium.

We also know CCSD increased spending in 2009-10 DESPITE the recession. CCSD’s FY 2010 approved budget planned on spending $35 million MORE than in the FY 2009 budget (an increase of $23 million when looking only at the operating budget).

We aren’t saying that $200 million isn’t a lot of money – it is. But relative to the billions of dollars in spending, $200 million looks like chump change, not the end of the world for K-12 education. Now the big question is, will CCSD spend more money in this biennium than in the last? We’ll find out for sure by mid-2011.