Nevada’s education establishment hopes you’re bad at history. Otherwise, you’ll identify what’s missing in its push for more funding.
Officials from the Clark County School District and liberal special interest groups are already pushing for increased education spending next legislative session. Expect to hear lots of talk about the need to fund the base and rework the funding formula. Don’t expect to hear much about Gov. Brian Sandoval forcing through the largest tax increase in Nevada history just three years ago — specifically to increase education spending. Why let little things such as inconvenient facts get in the way of your narrative?
So why is the district out of money? Here are four expenses you may not have known about.
1. Increased PERS contributions. In 2009, district payments to the Public Employees Retirement System equaled 20.6 percent of payroll. That percentage, set by state law, increased every two years, reaching 28.1 percent in 2017. In total, the district sent PERS $438 million last year.
If the PERS contribution rate had remained at 2009 levels, the district’s retirement costs would have been $117 million lower in 2017. Half would have gone to boosting employee pay, and the district would have had almost $60 million extra. Coincidentally, the district put its recent budget deficit at $68 million.
So did teachers and other school district employees at least see their retirement benefits increase? Nope. The rate hikes were needed to pay down PERS’ looming unfunded liability. The taxpayers, the district and its employees are paying more because previous retirees didn’t pay enough into the system to cover their costs.
Barring reforms, this will continue to cause budget drama for decades to come.