By Kristen Williams
After much discussion between council members and Mesquite residents at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, a public hearing has been scheduled for Councilman Brian Wursten’s bill 526 to amend Title 2 of the Mesquite Municipal Code in order to supplement local education funds from the revenue generated from marijuana sales.
The council voted 3-0, and the public hearing will take place at the regular city council meeting on Sept. 12 at 5 p.m.. Mayor Pro Tem Geno Withhelder sat in for Mayor Litman, while Council Members Wursten, David Ballweg and Rich Green all voted yes on the agenda item.
Meanwhile, Ballweg’s resolution 936, an effort to get any discussion of expenditures related to marijuana related revenues added to the broader budgeting process for Fiscal Year 18-19, did not advance. Litman and council member George Rapson were absent during this meeting, and Ballweg moved to table this agenda item until they returned. After about an hour of discussion, the motion failed and Ballweg stated he would again propose the resolution at the next meeting anyway.
During public comments, residents expressed concern over delaying these matters. What would happen to the revenue generated between the time recreational marijuana sales began on July 1 and the next fiscal year budget discussion? Would it go into the general fund? How would it be allowed to be spent? Would there be any earmarked allocation for the schools?
Wursten’s bill would take one half of 1 percent of the city’s imposed tax on Deep Roots Harvest marijuana businesses and put it in a fund separate from the city’s general fund, specifically for Virgin Valley’s education needs. Clark County School District has an annual budget of about $2.3 billion, of which only a fraction is funded by the state.
Wursten said rural cities like Mesquite seem to be on the back burner for the district. He also pointed out that the city has no budget for the school system (nor are they supposed to), so it’s important to get this resolution through in order to get the schools some much needed money.
One resident spoke about how budget shortcomings impact the students in many ways. As a third grade teacher at VVES, he sees the emotional toll it all takes on the children. VVES is now short a kindergarten teacher and children are experiencing chaos just as the school year is getting started. He spoke about how 5-year-olds, while just getting used to a new environment, new rules, and new friends, start to trust a teacher to help them adapt. Then they have to change classes and get a new teacher and start all over again. He says they go home crying, come to school crying, and now the teachers are dealing with emotional stress of the children and don’t have time to educate effectively instead of re-teaching routines. Kids are falling behind.
Another resident noted that businesses and other organizations have avenues to pursue funds and asked what parents and other residents can do to make sure they have their say so that schools get a portion.
Wursten replied that anyone who wants to guarantee schools get some of those funds should contact the councilmen and urge them to pass 526. One way to do that is to attend the public hearing on Sept. 12 and make your voice heard.