TCC’s attempt to form a separate school district |

TCC’s attempt to form a separate school district

Cory Fisher

In June, as the end of Nevada’s 1997 Legislative session neared, the pressure was on – members of the Tahoe Citizens Committee were not going to give up. Maintaining the longtime stance that lake residents in Douglas County were not receiving adequate services and facilities for their tax dollars, the TCC continued to explore self-government options. Attempts to form a separate county had been shot down.

A dual-county, independent school district including Tahoe portions of Washoe and Douglas counties looked like the next best strategy.

Although an independent study funded by the TCC showed a separate school district would be financially feasible, opponents feared the remaining counties would be seriously impacted.

“As money gets scarce, why spend more?” said DCSD Director of Business Services Rick Kester in June. “I’m concerned with the precedent-setting nature of this statewide.”

With an initial bill sponsored by Assemblyman Pete Ernaut (R-Reno) to form a school district at Incline Village, questions remained as to whether Douglas County residents would be included. Ernaut said it hinged upon public support, which he said was questionable.

But TCC members insisted support for the new school district was “overwhelming.”

A constant presence at the Legislature by Douglas County School board members is now said to have had an impact on the final decision to exclude Douglas County from the final draft of AB596, which was approved by the Assembly and vetoed by the governor in July.

“I don’t think this will become an issue again at the lake for Douglas in 1999 – I think this will die, I really do,” said board member Don Forrester in July. “It would (have) opened the door for other areas, where the rich appear to not want to pay for the poor. I’d like to see some sort of statewide grievance committee where complaints are independently evaluated.”

But TCC spokesman Mike Jabara insists the issue is far from dead.

Despite AB596’s veto, Jabara said he sees progress, with this effort being “the first time change has been proposed in the Nevada school system in 40 years.”

“The Legislature was sent an extremely strong signal – if school districts don’t pay attention to their constituents they will take action … we’re looking at the potential to expand (the bill) to include Douglas in 1999. The expectation now is that both counties will have to bend over backward for the lake.”

Although Douglas County may not see it that way, $1.5 million – roughly 70 percent – of the district’s 1997-98 budget is going toward facility upgrades at Tahoe’s schools, with major construction scheduled for the summer of 1998.

In addition, roughly $463,000 of Building and Sites expenditures went into lake maintenance projects completed last summer.

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