Despite a lingering shortage in education funding, Clark County School District could get a cash infusion that would address some longtime needs.
During the 2019 legislative session in Carson City, the Assembly and Senate passed Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson's AB309 bill, which permits counties to pass a quarter-cent sales tax raise to garner more funds. An estimated -- and strictly supplemental -- $108 million could be generated for education if the Clark County Commission votes for the increase.
On Thursday, both the commission and the Clark County School District Board of Trustees gathered for a joint meeting -- the first-ever of its kind -- to discuss what specific areas that money could fund should they vote on the tax bump. During that four-hour meeting, the two ruling bodies addressed pre-kindergarten schooling, truancy, adult education and retaining/recruiting teachers.
Commissioner Tick Segerblom was at the meeting. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that it was "very cooperative."
"The fact is that's what government is about," he said, "We should open up and talk to each other. And if we have problems, let's get them out in the public and debate them."
Segerblom said raising the sales tax in Clark County is a way to keep money in the county. Because of the way the school funding formula works, money raised through taxes in Clark County goes into one fund and is distributed throughout the state, which means the county is subsidizing other public education systems around the state.
If the tax is raised, it could put about $54 million -- or half of the projected additional tax revenue -- directly to the school district, Segerblom said.
"Anything we can do to help teachers and students, I'm for it," he said.
There is a problem with a sales tax. It is regressive, which means it impacts people with lower incomes more than people with large incomes because even a few pennies more takes a larger bite out of their budgets.
Hugh Jackson is the editor of the Nevada Current. He said the Legislature could have allowed the county to raise other taxes like the gaming tax.
Jackson pointed out that Nevada taxes gaming companies at 6.75 percent but other states tax them at much higher rates, sometimes as much as 40 percent.
"Nobody discusses the gaming tax," he said, "Somehow it's become sacrosanct. You can't discuss it. It's like Voldermort or something."
He thinks it is absurd that raising the gaming tax to pay for better education can't even be discussed.
Segerblom, who served in the Legislature for several years, admits it is unlikely that Nevada lawmakers would raise the gaming tax, especially because it takes a two-thirds majority to pass any tax hike.
While he understands that sales taxes are regressive, he thinks it is a good way to start the effort to raise more funds within the county for education.
"I do think if we pass this sales tax, and we start this collaborative effort, and we actually show concrete results, then that will open it up," he said.
Furthermore, Segerblom believes if the county and school district can show the legislature they can work together on funding, then lawmakers will be more likely to let the county raise other taxes.
One part of that working together will be monitoring where the money is spent and what the results are.
"I think we're not just going to say, 'take the money and run and we trust you,'" Segerblom said.
It will take five of the seven commissioners to approve the sales tax hike.
Tick Segerblom, commissioner, Clark County Commission; Hugh Jackson, editor, Nevada Current
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