More Than One Million Earmarked for Douglas Lake Schools |

More Than One Million Earmarked for Douglas Lake Schools

Cory Fisher

Major improvements could be in store for Douglas County’s lake schools in 1998 – if the Tahoe area doesn’t break away to form a separate county or school district, officials say.

Smaller improvement projects, however, are already scheduled for this summer, regardless of the much-anticipated legislative decision on the county split.

“The district will move forward with these projects even in light of the Tahoe Citizens Committee’s efforts to break away,” said DCSD Finance Director of Business Services Rick Kester. “The fact is we don’t know what’s going to happen – but if there was to be a separate county, we would have to redo the entire budget from top to bottom.”

Over a million and a half dollars in capital projects funds has been earmarked for lake school facility upgrades in the Douglas County School District’s 1997-98 Tentative Budget, with major construction scheduled for the summer of 1998. In addition, roughly $463,000 of Building and Sites Fund expenditures is designated to pay for smaller lake maintenance projects due to begin this summer.

But the district’s recent efforts aren’t enough for TCC Education Chairman Bill Gordon.

“I think this is a sham to satisfy local residents,” said Gordon. “Let’s get moving with the big projects this building season – it doesn’t matter what happens in the future, this needs to be taken care of now. I’m sick and tired of this rhetoric.”

“To say this is a sham is unfair,” said Kester. “We’re spending almost all the capital money we have. To me, budgets are the ultimate actions. It’s just not possible to begin large projects this summer – we don’t even have plans, let alone architects and approval from the state, county and TRPA. Many smaller projects are happening this summer – we can’t do much more in terms of manpower. Believe me, this is all being done in good faith.”

Scheduled to vote on the budget May 21, several board members said they would support funding for both small and large projects, but the allocation of 1997-98 money for large lake projects would have to be re-evaluated should there become a new county.

“If Tahoe becomes its own district we wouldn’t be able to afford those projects,” said board member Michele Lewis. “But these are upgrades that really need to be done. We care about the schools up there – some board members think a new county would hurt students. We’re doing everything we can to keep the lake from breaking away.”

Other improvements included in the budget addressed needs at two of the valley’s older schools – Gardnerville Elementary School and Douglas High School – totaling roughly $120,000.

“We’ve made a tremendous effort to do what we said we were going to do – turn our attention to our older schools,” said Kester. “We’re funding a significant number of projects brought forth by the Lake Tahoe Facilities Task Force.”

Gordon says even if a new county is approved by legislators and voters, the actual split is still several years down the road.

“I want to see shovels and equipment out there this summer. After all, it’s our tax money that is paying for these improvements,” said Gordon. “It’s not a gift – we’re just getting part of it back.”

Douglas County would lose one-seventh of its student body – roughly 900 students – should Tahoe form a new county. Kester said that would inevitably result in cuts in support services and staff in the valley.

Dates are unsure, but the Nevada Legislature will have to reach a decision regarding the creation of a new county by June.

“It looks as though the board will approve the budget as presented,” said Superintendent Pendery Clark. “But they’ll probably want it made clear – possibly in a second motion – that they wouldn’t approve major facilities upgrades if the county breaks away. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see the funding moving forward – I was pleased to see that many of the Facilities Committee’s top priorities were included.”

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