Henderson Offers Up Marijuana Business-License Revenue To Local Schools

-By Valerie Miller

The state of Nevada may want to take a cue from the City of Henderson. While the end result of Nevada’s marijuana-tax money distribution to the Clark County School District is debatable, Henderson is using some of its own extra pot dollars to help community schools.

Henderson decided to take a portion of its marijuana business-license revenue and use it for grants to aid city schools. Those eligible include Clark County School District schools in Henderson, as when as public charter schools.

At the end of its first year in 2018, that money totaled $148,000. That amount represented about 30 percent of the total business-licensing fees generated by marijuana-related businesses in Henderson.

But that’s not all Henderson did to assist its schools. Prior to the opening of legal marijuana dispensaries in 2017, the city to the south of Las Vegas had already offered funds — from it redevelopment tax set aside — to give schools a boost. Those distributed redevelopment dollars totaled $1.3 million in 2018. The practice of setting aside some redevelopment funds for schools started in 2015. To-date, a total of $3.3 million has been distributed to schools from redevelopment dollars.

Strictly speaking, school funding and education are not part of the prescribed duties of a municipality, explains Henderson Mayor Debra March. But city officials took on the role anyway.

“I think we are the only local municipality using marijuana money for schools,” March says in an interview with Vegas Legal Magazine. “It is part of our commitment to move the needle for our schools.”

Henderson has 40 CCSD public schools, 15 charter schools.

So far, the extra money from pot-related business licenses — and redevelopment set-aside dollars — has been used for things including students’ Chromebook laptops and repainting a local high school, along with helping at-risk schools with a part-time social worker.

In addition, a $100,000 grant went to provide extra support services for students at Henderson’s Basic High School, Brown Middle School and Robert Taylor Elementary School. Early interventions are provided to students who have suffered traumatic experiences.

“The students at the schools come from our redevelopment areas, so it ties into the redevelopment (funding),” explains Stephanie Garcia Vause, the city’s chief strategy officer.

The redevelopment money was given to schools as grant money, she adds. Henderson’s redevelopment areas include downtown Henderson, Pitman (which is south on Boulder Highway), and the eastside of Henderson.

Garcia Vause is also part of Henderson’s Community Education Advisory Board, or CEAB. The board was formed after the reorganization of the school district, which gives local school officials more control over their schools. CEAB receives grant applications from schools and educators for consideration.

“We were the first community education advisory board in Southern Nevada,” she says proudly. The board was formed in April 2017.

Mayor Debra March notes that the residents’ named education and schools as a priority in the Henderson Strong Comprehensive Plan’s community research.

“We’d like to make our schools the best in the state, if not the country,” the mayor adds. “Raising up our children is a priority.”

The city has already set up wi fi zones in its recreational centers where children can go to do their homework. General funds were used for the homework zones.

Liz Trosper, a Henderson business owner of Trosper Communications, also sits on CEAB. She gives the mayor and Henderson City Council credit for offering the extra money to schools.

She also says there’s accountability by grant recipients.

“If you ask for things (for your school), you are accountable to show how it worked out,” explains Trosper.

“The grants are given out in the fall, so at the end of the year, we can evaluate,” March explains.

The mayor also praises the new CCSD superintendent, Jesus Jara.

“Dr. Jara seems more willing to work with us,” March maintains.

And Garcia Vause points out that the city is working with CCSD to “support schools.”

The city’s economic future depends on having an educated workforce, March says. Adequate school funding is part of that equation.

“I hope the marijuana money will have a long-term impact on schools (success),” March responds. “I hope so.”

Patricia Charlton, the provost of the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus, praised the work of CEAB and the use of extra marijuana revenue to help schools.

The provost lauded CEAB’s efforts to put more money in schools for mental health services, as well as instructional services.

“I think this (funding) has made a notable difference and really helped move the needle,” she says. “I think this dedication to our schools is one of the things that draws people to Henderson.

Valerie Miller is an award-winning Las Vegas Valley-based journalist. She can be reached at (702) 683-3986 or valeriemusicmagic@yahoo.com.