School district faces harsh cuts


Randy Long photo  White Pine County School District faces large cuts to its budget this year, including many sports including boys and girls golf. Boys golf team playing at Mojave Resort golf course this week.

Randy Long photo
White Pine County School District faces large cuts to its budget this year, including many sports including boys and girls golf. Boys golf team playing at Mojave Resort golf course this week.

The White Pine County School District Board of Trustees held a budget discussion session in front of a standing room only crowd packed into the high school library on April 11.

District Chief Financial Officer Paul Johnson’s worksheet of potential budget cuts came quickly to the center of attention of the public in attendance. Johnson has the thankless task of balancing the district’s budget, and this fiscal year will be brutal.

The proposed budget includes $145,000 in cuts from the Lund School, $206,000 from White Pine Middle School including all athletics, and a tough $431,000 from the high school. The proposal also eliminates one district administrator and one elementary school position.

Johnson is trying to save the district just over a million dollars in total this year. As for the high school, the potential cuts will hit hard. One math and one english teaching position each need to be cut. Auto shop, wood shop and the robotics program would be cut. Entire sports programs would be cut, including boys and girls soccer, boys and girls golf, wrestling, baseball, dance and flag. The football team would also lose an assistant coach.

“I’m curious,” baseball coach and teacher Quinn Ewell said during the opening public comment. “There’s a $90,000 cut to sports, including baseball and dance. I would be willing to cover the stipends. Right now we’re sending a bus down half full, but softball and baseball could go together.”

“This is a bad situation,” coach and teacher Tyler Laity said. “You need to realize how important extracurriculars and sports are for kids.”

“That other road, that’s not good,” boys soccer coach Leif Tokerud said. “It’s a horrible and treacherous road when kids don’t have good things to do, an awful road. This is a huge deal and pretty intense stuff. I want you to understand what all these things mean. I’m getting a little emotional. There are a lot of kids from the program who stepped up and served in the armed forces. I need you to understand these things.”

“I moved down to Ely about three years ago,” senior Jose Pacheco said. “Soccer is a sport that has really shown me a lot. My family was poor moving from Las Vegas and the team really helped me a lot. Now I’m going to UNLV to play soccer. Playing with my little brother on the team was one of the best experiences of my life. Anything I can do to help out, I’ll help out.”

“Auto shop got my son through high school,” said a woman who identified herself as Charlotte Baldwin. “It’s the reason he showed up, the reason he kept his grades up. It’s important stuff to know.”

Johnson then explained his revenue projections for the year.

“Unfortunately, there is a price tag on education,” Johnson said. “It’s not incompetence, it’s economics. I wish there was someone to blame, that would be a lot easier. We have to identify things that are supplemental to our core. Right now we have to play the hand we’ve been dealt. The revenue we have to operate with has not kept pace with expenditures. The state increased our per pupil allotment this year by only $50, which comes out to a total of $60,000. That’s one-fifth of the increase in inflation alone. Over the past two years, there has been a migration of $1.4 million to the charter school. I’m not vilifying the charter school, we’re just dealing with the economics of that school opening.”

“I assure everybody here,” White Pine High principal Adam Young said. “If there were other ways, we would be doing that. Anything that could be described as ‘extra’ was eliminated last year. Everything we talk about is going to be really, really painful and a bad idea.”

“Last year we talked about cuts to sports,” White Pine Middle School principal Sharyl Allen said. “We lost intramurals, wrestling and golf.”

Sophomore Lily Fullmer suggested a 4th of July soccer extravaganza to raise money for the team. Sophomore Hannah Barber suggested softball and golf tournaments and an archery shoot.

“We have our own labor shortage,” Ely State Prison Warden Renee Baker said. “So we have the same problems that you do recruiting teachers. School budget cuts affect us too, and we will have nothing to offer recruits. Officers will ask about the school district: ‘What do you have to offer?’ My officers don’t have much to offer their kids other than sports and extracurriculars, and next to the mine, I’m one of the biggest employers.”

“We’re looking at these cuts,” Meg Rhoades, White Pine Tourism and Recreation employee said. “But we need to spread them out over all the sports. If families are going to stay, they’ll ask which sports we have. Then they’ll say, ‘We’re going to move.’ We can’t put it all on the community. We have to have a plan, or else it’s going to be the same five people at the fundraisers. They’re going to get tired of it, and they’ll be the five families that leave. Hopefully, we can all make a little more solid commitment.”

“We have a group for that,” Young said. “Make sure you joint the athletic boosters before you leave tonight.”

“I’m on the private side,” engineer B.J. Almberg said. “I’ve had to take pay cuts and it’s not very comfortable. I believe it should be pay-to-play, but I also don’t want to raise it so high that no one can afford to pay to play. There’s nothing more important to the community and youth than taking care of these programs. They’re a lifeline to keep them out of trouble. I don’t want it to be a handout. I want them to come and work. Pay-to-play increases their commitment and I am willing to come and fight for these kids. If we really want this to work, everybody has to participate in it.”

“We really need to pitch the White Pine boosters,” said a man who identified himself as Todd Brewster. “They are a small but dedicated group and very hardworking folks. We do need you. We need your strength and your connections. We need one grand plan and not 42 different ones. Cutting ten percent of the budget out of 20 percent of the programs is not how it’s done anywhere else.”

“We have a problem in Nevada,” Johnson said. “It’s the amount of money being put in. We need to increase our base funding. Are we going to have to cut $1.2 million next year? A lot of the factors have plateaued. We really need our voices to be heard and we need to take a look at how much money we spend on education as Nevadans.”

“It’s been a painful few years for all of us,” board chair Lori Hunt said.

The district must file its tentative budget on April 15. It will hold a mandatory tentative budget public hearing on May 18 and must adopt its final budget by June 8.

The board will meet next in the district office’s board room on April 19 at 6 p.m.

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  1. Jennifer says:

    How sad. Not every child is academically interested or successful. The vocational studies for some are the start to their future career. To take that opportunity away from a child is wrong. WPCSD needs to understand that eliminating vocational studies and sports is taking away some young peoples reason for attending school. These cuts are absolutely not in the best interest of our counties kids!

  2. mike kelly says:

    1.4 million to the charter school . how about those who want private school, pay for private school.

    • The article in the paper didn’t mention everything from the meeting. As a board member, I take great issue with cutting any of the suggested cuts to balance the budget. I did suggest at the meeting, staff pay a portion of their insurance premium to help alleviate the deficit. Currently the school district pays 100% of the premium for the employee. There were more HR related suggestions as well that were not reported in this article.

      • Its a nice idea to say that teachers should pay for their own insurance but thats really just another pay cut. Is it not important to you to retain good teachers? or is reelection what really matters? This isnt a practical solution and its insulting to the intelligence of others when you pander for votes. You should be standing up for teachers instead of blaming them….. but i suppose that isnt as politically expedient and reelection is just around the corner now isnt it? Lord help the Co-op.

    • Melanie Martinez says:


    • Geph Polish says:

      I’ve got to do a little research and then I’ll be back. What I have to say won’t tickle your ears but it will be true and I hope a wake up call. When I was in high school over 50 years ago there were only four major sports…..Football, basketball, track, and baseball. There were no girl sports and certainly no sports such as golf ( if you want to call it a sport ) or soccer. I have no idea what dance and flag are all about. Anyway, stay turned.

    • Mary Kerner says:

      The charter school here is public not private. The same money from the state gets divided between the 2 schools. Chartes also get more money from the state per pupil, but don’t have to offer the same services. Talk to the Governor about a fair money disbursement. Contact info is on the school district website under the parent info link.

  3. Maybe another necessary trip to London for Paul to ‘get better insurance rates’ would help.

    • You clearly have no idea what you are talking about but go on which yo bad self anyway. Maybe you would like to do some research instead of just pointing fingers. You really think the district paid for that? Or was it said insurance company? Go ahead and go get some facts then come on back.

      • Here’s a fact: someone paid for that trip. And I rather doubt that the insurance company would feel obliged to do so in an era of INSURANCE BROKERS AND TELEPHONES. It may be important to again point out that tax dollars belong to the public, and that money must come from somewhere. However, this may be a difficult concept for someone so simplistic in their thinking that they are planning to vote for Bernie.

  4. It seems reasonable to ask teachers and other employees to pay a portion of their health insurance premiums. Also…does it make economic sense for the School Administrator to receive almost $40,000.00 in pay raises over the past 4 years during a time in which school district student enrollment is declining..

    • Sounds like you have less than half the story. You should probably reach out to a schoolboard member past or current and find out why the compensation has changed in this manner. I can assure you that your time wont be wasted and your concerns will change.

      • anne williams says:

        Transparency is very important and the fact that you suggest that he should reach out to a schoolboard member for clarification is disturbing—Why doesn’t the public know why his compensation has changed in this matter? Student enrollment declined and his compensation increasing? It should be performance based pay raises like in the private sector–when you perform well you receive higher compensation and when you perform horribly you lose compensation.

  5. Honestly, I think that opening the charter school was a horrible idea. . The charter school is basically a money pit. they spent a lot of money on it.first it was just the building then they had to make the “playground ” and then they added TWO MORE small buildings. Who knows how much that costed.just get rid of the stupid charter school.They wonder why they lost so much money,Two Words:CHARTER SCHOOL

    • Apparently more studying is needed for the community concerning the Charter School. The very simple fact is that the Charter School is a product of White Pine School District’s own ineptitude. The district has consistently failed to prioritize the one thing that truly matters in the system, and that is the education of our children. The Charter School was founded due to that blatant oversight. The instructors and administration there don’t bow at the feet of a destructive union and certainly don’t authorize superfluous global and cross country trips for “conferences” and “better insurance rates”. The Charter School was far from a horrible idea, it was perhaps the best thing that has happened for the students of White Pine County. They will enter what has unfortunately become a substandard high school more prepared than the other students, and subsequently, the real world of employment. It will continue to thrive as concerned parents become more and more aware of the failing school district. The district has already lost great instructors to the charter school and continue to do so. Visit and see what our district employees are making, study it out a bit. Then judge for yourself who is making better use of your tax dollars.

      • Jennifer says:

        I agree with Chuck and Wheeler. As a parent in White Pine County I appreciate the Charter School and everyone involved with it. I value my children’s educations and what the Charter School is bringing to my children and the community.

        • Seems like if you really cared youd want those that cover up for themselves when children are assaulted held accountable.

    • Perhaps you’d like to attend the charter school for your grammar?

  6. I want to know why the Charter school is not one of the schools affected by this budget cut. If they get part of our budget for White Pine County schools, they should also share the cut.

    • anne williams says:

      Both the Charter School and WPC schools get funding from the Federal Government on a “per pupil” basis so when the student population of the WPC school declines they receive less funding-when the Charter School increases their student population they receive More funding–pretty basic. WPC Schools simply put have too many expenses and not enough income and as long as they lose students to the Charter School their income will decrease and the Charter School income will increase. Charter Schools are great for students and their parents-it gives them choices in their child’s education.

  7. R.I.P. W.P.H.?

    Presiding over that will be a sad legacy for all responsible.
    When something cannot withstand competition, when those involved rest on their laurels to the detriment of the entity and its reason for being (taking funding, good will, and support for granted), failure and eventual obsolescence can result. Nature abhors a vacuum, and once upon a time that fact was taught at W.P.H. I do not know if it is today. But I do know that those involved should expect parents (and students) to seek the best education available. That our public schools apparently cannot suffer contrast due to their own internal weight (and other factors?) is tragic both for history sake, and for the sake of the students. And those who helped create the resulting situation should take responsibility, not demonize those offering or seeking better.

    Beyond that, when tax dollars are invested, there should be a full accounting. And the aforementioned ‘superfluous global and cross country trips for ‘conferences’ and ‘better insurance rates’ may not be the most appropriate application of public funds ever (on principal), despite somehow characterized as appropriate or justified by those involved at the time. If nothing else, the optics are not good as a comfortable arrogance would seem to win the moment, but not the trust.

    I think they also taught that sort of (ethical) reasoning in White Pine County once upon a time.

  8. The Charter School is a distraction and should not be used by the community to start in fighting. Those attacking teachers and administratrs are way off base. Your neighbors need to eat and pay rent as well and choosing to be an educator should not come along with a vow of poverty. The problem lies with continued and consistently inadequate funding. The likes Sheldon Adleson, The Fertittas and Steve Wynn pay less taxes than any of us. Governor Sandoval has his eyes on higer political office and hes abusing us to look good. Look into it and stop fighting amongst your friends and neighbors. Were all on the same team.

    • You’re just joking by mentioning the three largest tax payers in the state right?? That was just a joke, right? Do some homework before you choose to vilify three of the largest job producers in the state. Their enormous contributions are part of the reason that you and I aren’t weighed down with state income taxes. Nobody is attacking teachers or administrators, but the truth is what it is. According to, the district increased the salaries of the top ten earners by over $200K between the years 2011-2015, and yet we have all been fed the lie that “there had been no raises given in over seven years”. Take a look at the rest of the increased salaries over that time period. The pie is only so big and if the salary beast continues to eat up more and more of it, then it’s the kids that suffer through loss of extracurricular programs. Our teachers are paid amply for their services. Lest we forget that they work 20% less than teachers in other districts (4 days in lieu of 5) and 71% percent less than most every other profession (1480 annual hours in lieu of 2080). Now, is this the fault of the teachers?? Not at all! We all want to be paid as much as possible for what we do. I fault our weak school board members who have been charged by our votes with the responsibility to watch over the well being of our children’s education. They are ones who approve the budgets given them by our administration, and they are failing us. The numbers don’t lie.

  9. Stephen Porter says:

    I agree with some of the comments about not putting this on the children. Why is it them that has to suffer.

    Ely has had a long history of supporting the kids. I remember when I was in school there, the boosters where huge in raising money. We sold band calendars for $25 in the mid 90’s that were only worth a couple bucks. The people loved helping the students. I remember selling wreaths for $100 each. I understand that we are talking big money and that selling calendars alone wouldn’t work. But the point I’m trying to make is this.
    The citizens of Ely love Ely. It is a special unique place. With everyone arguing nothing will get done. Get everyone involved to save it. Don’t rely on Carson City. The kids are more than willing to get out and wash cars , sell calendars, or to do whatever it takes. The adults especially business owners in Ely should take a hard look at this. They should work together to make sure White Pine High School is well funded.

    Start with coming together on this. It will work out if you are together Ely.

  10. Wheeler says:

    Chuck_D :”I fault our weak school board members who have been charged by our votes with the responsibility to watch over the well being of our children’s education. They are ones who approve the budgets given them by our administration, and they are failing us. The numbers don’t lie.”

    And so, we cannot conveniently sweep things under the rug in a spirit of community solidarity – which would be the typical inclination (and cover) of some originally pledged to (nobly) teach or administratively support such effort – but have now become (seemingly) lacking and inclined to obfuscate (somehow, for some reason).

    The report card is in:

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