ELKO – Elko County School District trustees were invited to tour the courthouse by two Elko judges and Commissioner Jon Karr on Tuesday.
Karr, who served on the school board for 12 years, made the request during public comment at the Feb. 12 meeting, days after proposing a 10-cent reduction in pay-as-you-go school funding on the 2020 ballot.
“I’m very proud of pay-as-you-go,” Karr told the trustees. “I think it has been very effective and the money well-spent, but I’d like to explain to you so you can ponder it when it comes up on the ballot in the next election.”
Renewed every 10 years by Elko County voters, the 75-cent pay-as-you-go tax finances school construction projects. Karr said if it is reduced to 65 cents, the remaining 10 cents could be utilized by the county for courthouse projects.
District Judge Al Kacin said the possible third district judge proposed in Assembly Bill 43 began the conversation with the Elko County Commissioners on the structural needs and maintenance of the courthouse.
“It got us thinking a whole lot with Commissioner Karr about our facilities,” Kacin said.
Justice of the Peace Mason Simons said the courthouse has undergone “retrofits and remodeling” to accommodate growing county offices, and added that a “long-term solution” was imperative.
“The reality is, the useful life of a 110-year-old building has run its course,” said Simons, who was stepping in for District Judge Nancy Porter because she was unable to attend due to a mandatory meeting elsewhere.
Kacin told the school district that the justice and district courts were contributing a total of $500,000 toward the construction fund to house a third bench, which could be approved by the Legislature this session.
Kristin Birdzell, a biology teacher at Elko High School, said during public comment that although she understood the need, she “really questioned” why the money is usually sought from education sources, when there is a need for updating school facilities.
“I’m really curious when it comes to money and funding” why it comes from the schools, she said.
Board president and trustee Teresa Dastrup invited the judges to tour the county schools, in response to the description of the courthouse offices being similar to “a sardine can.”
“We would welcome you to tour our sardine-can schools as well,” Dastrup said.