What Would it Take to Adequately Fund Schools? - 8 News NOW

What Would it Take to Adequately Fund Schools?

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LAS VEGAS -- As students, teachers and parents continue to protest proposed budget cuts, the question remains: How will Nevada pay for its schools?

Legislative Democrats say a "balanced approach" that includes some tax increases is needed. But Governor Sandoval says he'll veto any new taxes.

To put it in perspective, to raise $150 million dollars for Clark County School District, every man, woman and child would owe an additional $75 dollars in taxes. To bridge their entire $400 million gap, every Nevadan would need to pay around $200 dollars extra.

For the past week, there have been protests staged by students at several schools. But no matter how much they yell, it will be up to their parents and the rest of Nevada to figure out a way to pay for their education, let alone every other social program, on the chopping block.

"Property tax, that would be ok. Food tax, that would be alright," said Leo Traham, the parent of a Silverado High School student.

"I think a tax on services would probably be the best way to do it because property taxes are already pretty high," said Keith Barker, who also has a student at Silverado High School.

"I'm pretty much taxed out and I think we need to cut if the money's not there," said Debbie Skworzec, the parent of a high school student.

Increasing mining taxes requires a constitutional amendment. Increasing gaming taxes faces intense lobbyist pressure. Governor Sandoval believes corporate taxes will scare off job creation. 8 News Now sought the advice of economic analyst Guy Hobbs. His group came up with a tax study in 2002 that he believes state lawmakers largely ignored.

"Our tax structure here in the state of Nevada is antiquated and it does not perform well," said Guy Hobbs, Hobbs, Ong & Associates.

Raising $150 million specifically for Clark County School District would require a steep property tax increase with home values still low.

"That would be roughly a 20 percent increase in property tax," Hobbs said.

Simply raising sales tax would result in hiking it to nearly 10 percent, around the highest in the country.

This leaves a tax on services, currently untaxed, that could bridge the gap. "The type of revenue that you're talking about to plug the hole in the school budget could easily be raised by a nominal tax on services," said Hobbs.

One other idea to fund education -- a state lottery -- failed a vote by state lawmakers this week. Even if they had approved it, it required a constitutional amendment.

Six months ago 8 News NOW, the Review-Journal and Vegas PBS asked what the best way to balance the budget was in our Impact Nevada poll. While nearly 11 percent said raising taxes and 33 percent said cut spending, nearly 53 percent said do some of both.

Any action on taxes, cuts, or both require some level of compromise by legislative Democrats and Republicans in Carson City.

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