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Lakeland School District voters to decide levy

by Brian Walker
| April 9, 2010 9:00 PM

RATHDRUM - Salaries and benefits in the Lakeland School District will be cut by $850,000 even if voters approve a two-year supplemental levy on May 18.

The proposed levy - $3.25 million per year for two years - would increase taxes by about $48 per year for those who own a home valued at $180,000.

Now that the school board has authorized the vote, the district needs to sell the proposal to taxpayers, said Brad Murray, assistant superintendent.

Even with Lakeland's history of being fiscally responsible and the support it has received in past levies, Murray said the district realizes passage is not a given in this economic climate.

"It's a tough time to go to (the voters)," Murray said. "We understand that when we ask, we better be able to say that we told them in the past we'd spend the money a certain way and we did exactly that.

"We've received great support from the community and I hope that we've reciprocated with great student achievements that are a credit to our instructors and staff."

A simple majority is needed for the levy to pass.

Tom Taggart, the district's finance director, said the levy is needed to shoulder massive budget cuts from the state.

"This amount would allow us to continue existing programs, but we would still be cutting salaries and benefits," Taggart said.

The levy would also allow the district to reinstate previous cuts to libraries and textbook purchases, Taggart said.

Murray said the district will take a look across the board at ways it can save, from not filling positions after teachers retire to duplicative efforts on programs.

"If you start tearing away at the fabric that has made Lakeland what it is, that takes away programs and the kids suffer," he said. "We'll take a look at everything and we don't plan to add anything new. The staffing is at or below where the state wants us to be. We run a pretty lean organization as it is."

Lakeland's current levy that's expiring is $1.95 million a year for two years. Prior to that passing, the last time the district asked voters to approve such a levy was in 2001.

Other local districts, including Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene, Kootenai and St. Maries, are in the middle of their two-year levies so they're not going to voters this year. However, they all face difficult decisions ahead with more cuts despite salary freezes and not adding new positions. Districts are holding prioritization workshops this month to meet budgets.

Polls will be open for the Lakeland levy from noon to 8 p.m. at all of the district's elementary schools, the Bayview Community Center and the Hauser fire station.

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