One quarter of Clark County School District’s 42,000 employees took home $100,000 or more in pay and benefits in fiscal year 2022.
The district hasn’t been audited by the state in almost 20 years but now its spending will be under a microscope. On Monday, Gov. Joseph Lombardo announced that all the state’s school districts must submit copies of third-party audits to the governor’s office by March 1.
1. What did we find looking through the school district’s payroll?
2. Why is the school district being audited?
One quarter of Clark County School District’s 42,000 employees had a total compensation package of $100,000 or more in fiscal year 2022.
Nevada’s largest school district and the fifth-largest school district in the country has over 300,000 students in more than 360 schools and its 42,421 employees are well paid, even as the district faces questions about its finances.
Big District, Big Questions
The Clark County School District has seen student enrollment drop for the fifth year in a row, with 506 fewer students enrolled this year than last year. Because of it, the district is getting $33 million less in state aid this school year.
On Feb. 6, Gov. Joseph Lombardo signed an executive order that requires the state’s 17 school districts and the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority to submit to the governor’s office by March 1 copies of third-party audits completed in 2022.
The Division of Internal Audits in the Governor’s Finance Office will summarize the findings, identify any deficiencies, and give recommendations for improvements in a report by Dec. 29.
The executive order comes shortly after Lombardo called for increased transparency and accountability in Nevada’s education system.
Last year, state Democratic lawmakers proposed auditing Clark County School District, with bill sponsor Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas), saying she wants to see how the district is spending its money, and whether it’s funding its programs the way it says it is.
It has been almost 20 years since the state legislature audited the school district, The Nevada Independent reported.
An audit would help lawmakers answer questions they have gotten from the public about transportation challenges and health insurance costs for teachers.
“The bottom line is, we just want to make sure there's transparency and accountability, and that we can answer questions that our constituents have about what has been done with both the state, federal and any other monies coming into CCSD,” said Assembly Democratic leader Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), The Independent reported.
“Our finances are reviewed by external auditors and reported transparently on an annual basis, and we are happy to provide the Governor's Finance Office with any information they need,” a school district spokesperson said.
Henderson Councilman Dan Stewart has previously called for breaking up the district after doing so had been debated for years, a debate that had led to a reorganization of administrative power in 2015.
Pay Is Modest, With Pricey Outliers
When overtime, other pay and benefits are added to base pay, almost 11,000 employees have a total compensation package of $100,000 , according to school district payroll records provided to OpenTheBooks.com via a Nevada Open Records Act request.
Almost $2.9 billion was spent on total pay and benefits. While the average pay was modest, only $48,905 with base pay, overtime and other pay added together, many people made double and triple that.
The highest paid and with the largest benefits package was Superintendent Jesus Jara.
The FY 2022 records show his total pay as $325,608, with a whopping benefits package of $111,783, for a total package of $437,391.
But previous reporting shows that Jara got a $75,000 pay raise in October 2022, to bring his salary to $395,000, shortly after he threated legal action against the school board. The board had voted in October 2021 to fire him, then voted to rescind it less than a month later.
Given his $395,000 salary, the $111,783 in benefits brings his total compensation package to $506,783.
The school board agreed to pay $95,000 to reimburse him for attorney’s fees spent on his allegations of a hostile work environment.
The board had also voted to spend up to $100,000 to hire an outside firm to investigate Jara’s allegations but it’s unclear whether a firm was ever hired, and the superintendent’s spokesperson didn’t respond to requests for comment.
With the $75,000 pay raise and $95,000 in legal fees, that’s at least $170,000 of taxpayer money that Clark County School District has spent in one year to try to calm what has been a tumultuous relationship with its superintendent.
For other district employees, more than 1,550 people took home $100,000 or more between base pay and other pay before benefits.
The average benefits package was $19,096 but about 8,200 people had a benefits package of $30,000 or more. There were 446 people who had a benefits package of $45,000 or more.
A school district spokesperson said benefits include health insurance contributions, payments to the Nevada Public Employee Retirement System, as well as things like reimbursement for mileage, travel expenses and longevity pay.
The average person making overtime took home $2,385 in FY 2022, but many took home far more.
There were 340 people who took home $10,000 or more, 117 people made $20,000 or more in OT and 56 people collected $30,000 or more in OT.
Ten people made more in overtime and “other” pay than their base salaries.
School police officers consistently made lots of overtime — 25 of the top 30 highest overtime earners were school police.
Of the 164 school police officers that collected overtime pay, the average officer took home $16,527 in overtime.
School police officers, Anthony L. Cooke and Thomas R. Rainey, made the most in overtime, $127,043 for Cooke, on top of his $95,022 base pay, plus $39,028 “other” pay, for a total pay of $261,095.
Rainey made $111,981 in overtime and $23,802 in other pay, on top of $101,576 base pay for $237,359 total pay.
Both also had about $59,000 in unspecified benefits.
Cooke and Rainey are the second and third highest paid in the district, coming only after Superintendent Jesus Jara.
The district spokesperson said, “At times, CCSD police officers earn overtime assisting other law enforcement agencies at special events that CCSD is compensated for as part of interlocal agreements.”
The more than 1,900 bus drivers made among the lowest base pay — the highest was $49,000 and the average was $20,343 — but the average driver made another $6,000 between overtime and other pay.
The district spokesperson said, “All employees are paid in accordance with their contracts and/or the negotiated agreements reached with their respective bargaining unit.”