Nevada schools transition to new funding formula

Thomas Brooks from Lovelock Elementary School opened the Pershing County school board meeting on Monday, Nov. 15. He told the trustees about the school’s seasonal plans.

Soon LES students will shop for Santa for Senior gifts, an annual tradition. They’re also setting up their holiday store where they buy presents for family and friends.

Outside, Christmas decorations brighten Cornell Street. Stockings overflow with gifts and candy canes. Lovelock looks forward to the season with hope.

The new school funding formula, the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan (PCFP), took effect July 1, 2021. “It’s like flying a plane and not having all the motors running,” was the superintendent’s comment about the transition.  

Several issues remain unresolved. For example, Nevada mines pay a net proceeds from minerals (NPM) tax determined by the Department of Taxation every year. The school districts get a portion of the money.

Under the PCFP, the NPM will go to a general fund for dispersal to the school districts. Chairperson James Evans wondered if the question of Constitutionality was resolved. The Nevada Constitution says the NPM must go to the counties where the mines operate.

Superintendent Russell Fecht expressed concern that the PCFP could also sweep a portion of the district’s ending balance into an emergency fund. State officials are also still sorting out cost of living issues. “We have a lot of questions that continue to go unanswered,” he said.

Other business

Sciarani & Company recently completed the district’s audit report for the fiscal year 2020-2021. Jim Sciarani came from Winnemucca to answer questions. Each trustee had a copy of the audit in their packet. It is also available on the district’s website. 

Sciarani said the district had a good year financially with an increase of $1,118,414 in the general fund. He thanked Pershing’s finance director Lisa Clark for her hospitality and effort on the project. 

“I appreciate Jim Sciarani’s openness and willingness to talk to us and help us rectify things as we go along. We appreciate that clean opinion,” said Fecht. The board voted to approve the audit report. 

They also voted to accept a $155,600 bid from Aspen Creek Construction for an administrative storage building. Project manager Tom Donaldson said the Winnemucca company has done previous work for the school district, including the maintenance building.

Cindy Plummer, attending by phone, submitted a question to LES principal Kelly Lusardi.

“What has Lovelock Elementary School done to help parents understand the new math program this year since there were major concerns from several parents last year?” she asked.

 “Other than getting this question right now I hadn’t heard that there were additional issues. I can bring that to my staff and find out if they’re getting more comments from parents or if we need a lesson, so to speak, for the parents,” Lusardi replied.

Lusardi added that some of the teachers use Google classroom so parents can watch the lesson. Consequently, they can help teach the concepts the same way as the teachers.

The prison program continues to face staffing issues, said Neil Gallagher. Both the prison and the teaching staff are short-handed. There are two teaching positions and one Coal Canyon instructional aide position listed on the district’s website. The district is also looking for an aide for the general program.

Covid restrictions on inmate movement add another hurdle. There is no mixing of units which creates scheduling difficulties. Even so, a student is about to take his high school equivalency test, he said.

Plummer asked how Gallagher is getting the word out about the adult education program at the learning center. He said he puts flyers in high traffic areas including the tribal offices, City Hall, the jail and post office.

The next regular meeting of the Pershing County school board is at noon on Dec. 14. It meets at the district office on 1150 Elmhurst Avenue.