CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval issued the first veto of his administration Monday, rejecting a bill that would have allowed school districts to tap bond reserve accounts to fund school improvement projects and chastising Democrats for "their narrow view."
In his veto message, Sandoval said the bill has merit but would result in deeper operational cuts that would cost 5,000 teachers their jobs. The Republican wants the same pot of money, about $300 million, to fund education operations.
AB183, pushed by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, passed along party lines. The bill would have allowed school districts to use a percentage of money in bond reserve accounts to fund capital improvement projects.
Democrats lack the two-thirds majorities needed in both the Senate and Assembly to override Sandoval's veto. Smith and others touted the bill as a way to make older schools better and safer and to help create jobs in a state that leads the national in unemployment. Backers of the bill, including school superintendents, argued that tapping the accounts for operations would renege on a promise made to voters who approved the bond sales that the funds would be used for construction projects.
"While I knew this was his intention," I am saddened that the children attending school in old buildings that need safety and health upgrades are being disregarded so that this critical funding can be used to balance the budget," Smith said in a statement.
"The majority of these schools don't have parents or business partners who step in to upgrade the schools when the district can't provide rehabilitation," she said. "The inequities are glaring, and I'm surprised that a creative opportunity to correct them has been vetoed by the governor."
In the Washoe County School District, where 45 percent of schools are more than 50 years old, the bill could create $50 million to $75 million more in bonding capacity for construction projects, Smith said.
The Republican governor, however, called those arguments "parochial." Democrats, he said, "have misleadingly cited those who voted for the issuance of school bonds in the past as supporting their cause today, unfairly attributing to them their narrow view."
Sandoval said the bill, if allowed to stand, "will require a new tax at a point when our economy is presenting limited but promising signs of recovery."
It's the same argument defenders of the bill said would happen under Sandoval's plan. Clark County School District supported AB183, although the district would choose not to use freed-up reserve funds for five or six years because of the structure of its bond.
Sandoval's plan, however, would sweep money from the debt service reserve fund immediately. Dipping into the money would diminish Clark County School District's ability to pay off its bond debt, prompting it to raise property taxes as much as $200 on a home with an assessed value of $100,000, according to district representative Joyce Haldeman. It could also damage the district's bond rating and reduce its bonding capacity, potentially jeopardizing much of a $4.9 billion district-wide capital improvement plan. "This is a one-time fix for you," Haldeman said earlier of Sandoval' plan. "It's a long term problem for us."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)