The overcrowded Clark County, Nev., school system could soon begin construction on seven “shovel ready” school building projects as a result of a bond rollover measure signed into law on Wednesday.
The emergency measure, signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, will allow school districts to extend existing bonds for 10 years beyond the term approved by voters, without returning to taxpayers.
The measure has been controversial because earlier iterations included a provision that would have exempted school construction projects from the state’s prevailing wage law. Democrats balked at that provision, while some Republicans saw the rollover as an additional tax that should require voter approval.
The emergency measure approved on Wednesday included only the extension of the school construction bonds.
The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that the measure will allow school districts with growing student populations to build new schools or renovate others.
Among those that stand to benefit immediately are Clark and Washoe counties.
Officials in Washoe County, which includes the city of Reno, said that while the bill “will not cover the entirety of our funding needs, it is a major step forward for the district and, most importantly, for our children,” according to KTVN.
The Clark County district, which includes Las Vegas and its suburbs, has been bursting at the seams, facing unprecedented student growth. The New York Times last year detailed how this population spurt, fueled by Las Vegas’ economic boom, has really challenged the district with teacher shortages, overcrowded classrooms, and students being taught in trailers.
Under a 1998 ballot measure, the district built 101 new schools, replaced 19 others, and made improvements at several others, Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky wrote in a note on the district’s website last January.
“However, the bond funds have largely run out, and despite our incredible growth, [the district] does not have funding to build new schools, or renovate old ones,” he wrote.
Even given those realities, voters in 2012 handily defeated a $720 million capital improvement bond measure that would have financed technology upgrades and included $669 million for school improvements and construction.
The district has been heavily supportive of the state’s bond rollover measure—though its passage appeared shaky at times, particularly because of the prevailing wage provision.
Jim McIntosh, the district’s chief financial officer, testified that the bill would allow the district to raise $850 million for school construction and renovations. The district will be able to build 12 schools to be opened in 2017, add space to 40 others and replace two of its oldest elementary schools, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.