Clark County School District Waste: Throwing Our Money Away

Two stories have come to light recently that show how taxpayers’ money is being wasted by the Clark County School District.

Lyle Brennan

Am I the only one sick of this BS? Two stories have come to light recently that show how taxpayers’ money is being wasted by the Clark County School District. These examples not only point out the quality of the district’s decision-making, but also make me wonder what other questionable expenses haven’t yet been discovered.

Did you know that the school district has a budget of more than $3 million a year for legal expenses, but is spending even more than that? The CCSD Office of General Counsel consists of an administrator, 10 attorneys and a staff of nine, and also has a budget of $500,000 a year to hire additional attorneys. For the last three fiscal years, they’ve spent $2.1 million for outside attorneys alone. And next fiscal year, CCSD has budgeted a total of $800,000 a year for outside attorneys, and increased payments from $250 an hour to $330 an hour.

Outside attorneys have been hired to defend the district against a wrongful death suit involving a teenager who got drunk at a party involving CCSD police employees and got into a car accident that killed a young woman. The suit alleges that the CCSD police then attempted to cover up the incident. Attorneys have also defended officials against ethics charges and fought a lawsuit brought by a whistleblower who says she was demoted after reporting her superior’s wrongdoing.

The Review Journal recently reported that the school district has been paying a company called Emergenetics International to give district administrators and School Board members a survey that’s supposed to show the way the person thinks, with color-coded labels like blue for “analytical thinkers,” and red for “social thinkers.” The theory is that knowing their associates’ profiles will help them communicate better. Over the past six years, the district (meaning you, the taxpayer) has spent about $350,000 for these personality profiles. At a time when teachers are bringing their own school supplies from home and classrooms are overcrowded, what sense does it make to spend money for these touchy-feely programs?

Now the teachers union has come up with what has been commonly called a “Kill Nevada Business” ballot question and wants Nevada businesses to pony up 2 percent of their gross receipts (gross, not net) to raise money for Nevada’s top-heavy, poor performing school districts to spend on wasteful items like these. Question 3 on the November ballot is being promoted as a way to raise funds for better education, but it is a business killer. It doesn’t even contain a provision specifying that the money extorted from businesses must be used for classroom instruction. Who knows where the money will actually go?

There may be a glimpse of hope as the District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky has formed a panel of 13 high-profile citizens to review the CCSD budget and look for ways to cut waste and create efficiencies. Skorkowsky insists that the committee will question every expense using zero-based budgeting, and that nothing is off the table except expenses mandated by federal and state government. The committee will meet for the next few months and report its findings in December. I sincerely hope it will present reasonable alternatives to the current CCSD spending spree, and that the superintendent will use its findings to make real changes instead of giving them lip service and going back to business (and spending) as usual.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained! If you have other Nevada state or local government waste stories, please email them to me. (If news worthy and verifiable, I’ll publish them.)  It is my prayer and hope that we can make a big enough noise that our government actually hears us and changes its course to a course of common sense and sound governing… A government of the people, by the people, for the people.

By Whose Authority?

For more information on my Commentary and to see some of the backup research, or if you wonder why I take the position I take, go to www.LyleBrennan.com.

  • http://www.nevadabusiness.com/ Nevada Business Magazine

    Russ writes the following:

    Great article Lyle!

    More waste from their IT department….

    Recently they acquired telephones for a new phone system they
    are going to deploy district wide. I was in discussions with them about this 4
    years or so ago and ultimately declined to submit a bid.

    They have a Fujitsu Digital PBX system that they paid roughly
    $30,000,000.00 (yes million!) for 10 years or so ago. In addition to this
    ridiculous expenditure, they have a data network to tie the district together
    that according to the previous director (now retired) “is so big, our current
    usage is like a pea rolling through a 4 inch pipe”. They have IT and Telecom
    techs that take care of the Fujitsu and if they canceled the 750k per year
    software support contract from their current Florida based vendor, they can use
    that money to cost justify their new system that will cost roughly 10 million
    when complete.

    1)
    The Fujitsu (which we don’t sell or work on) is digital
    technology. Solid. Robust. I’ve been in this business almost 30 years and I can
    assure you that the system will last another 10 to 20 years.

    2)
    The retired director said they needed a system “to stay on top of
    current technology”

    3)
    The system they are getting is being custom built and developed by
    their IT department. Think of it…They have a few employees that will write the
    code for this thing. What happens when and if those 100k+ per year techs leaves?
    Actually, they will never leave because their job is too cush but what f they
    die? This happened to a customer of mine in CA recently and caused that customer a lot of pain and money.

    The monthly cost they are spending on IT and telecom services
    is so overkill it is sickening. I think that for every agency that relies on
    public funding, their needs to be a small business advisory board that that
    agency must use for consultation of how to make business decisions. Small
    business owners know how to stretch a dollar while thriving and surviving.

  • http://www.nevadabusiness.com/ Nevada Business Magazine

    Harold, a business owner in Nevada, discusses another instance of local government waste:

    “The NV secretary of state office is a mess. They have spent an untold amount on a new website, Silverflume, that is essentially a duplicate of their existing SOS website. It is supposed to make it easier to file the annual list of officers but if something on it doesn’t fit your business you have to go to the original website to get what you need. The Silverflume site is a couple of years old and it changed every time you went to it. There were no instructions on how to navigate the site so much time was wasted poking around. But it was our businesses time so it wasn’t important. They had to set up a customer service desk so you could call to get through the process. But, when you got to the end you had to pay with a credit card and if your business wanted to pay by check you had to go to the original NVSOS site and start over.

    “Filing the annual list of officers used to be simple. They sent you a copy of last years list and if there were no changes you signed it and sent a check. If there were changes you made the corrections and sent a check. The first time with the new system we spent about twelve hours trying to get through it.

    “Two years ago I tried to save a stamp by sending two sets of forms in the same envelope. Each set of forms were stapled together with their respective checks. Apparently as soon as the envelope was opened the staples were pulled and the two sets of forms were mixed and the monies were credited to one account and used to pay for a business license for a non-profit that didn’t need one. When I called the office to find out what was going on the woman got upset when I said you ,collective, can’t do that. I was told they can do anything they want and she hung up. She was angry that I said “you can’t do that” and was told to not make personal attacks. When I said that she was supposed to be a public servant and worked for the taxpayers she went ballistic and hung up again. It took six months and letters to everyone up the chain of command to get it straightened out.

    “This year I tried to go through the constantly changing website and finally down loaded the forms and filed them. I got a call from the new enforcement division and was told that I had checked the wrong box and was threatened with a felony for perjury. It took some time to get an explanation and had to hire a lawyer to file new papers.

    “They have taken a system that worked fine and took no time to get through and went “high tech” I think just to say they did. Of course their website went the way of most recent government websites. I think the problem is that the people who make up the websites have never worked in the real world and had to actually work with a site to accomplish a task. They just write code to do what their bosses tell them to do. The bosses have probably never had to work in the real world either.

    “Eighteen years when I moved a business here from CA because of the many layers of bureaucracy there I was astounded that it took about fifteen minutes to set up a business in Nevada. One form and take a copy of it to each dept. and you are done. I don’t think it is the same any more and I don’t see any advantage to the way it is done now.”