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Lakeland to start expanded budget process

by Brian Walker
| December 28, 2010 8:00 PM

Editor's note: Last week we concluded a series looking at per-resident spending by city throughout Kootenai County. Now we shift our focus to school districts in the county.

RATHDRUM - The Lakeland School District will move to an expanded budget process in February to deal with more anticipated cuts.

"The new process will involve staff, administration, board members and the community," said Tom Taggart, the district's finance officer. "We are going to be reaching out to more people for input. We are also going to dedicate more time to reviewing and discussing priorities."

In the past, Taggart said, much of the budget process has been done in the district office with periodic updates with the board.

"We believe we are facing very serious decisions that will impact our programs," Taggart said. "For us to make the best decisions we want as much input and discussion as possible."

The district plans to spend about $31 million in total funds for the 2011 fiscal year, down from $32.2 million last year and $34 million two years ago.

The district's current General Fund budget is $23.7 million, down from $23.9 million last year and $25 million two years ago.

Taggart said more cuts loom and the district needs input more than ever.

"The only apparent solution to next year's budget will be some type of significant reduction in employee costs," he said. "What specific form this takes will be a result of both the budget process and (teacher) contract negotiations.

"All programs will be reviewed and priorities established. The focus will continue to be on student achievement."

Taggart said this year's budget has enough in it to allow for the purchase of textbooks and library materials thanks to a two-year supplemental levy - $3.25 million per year for two years - voters approved in May.

"We, unlike a number of districts, have always stayed very close to the state-funded staffing levels," Taggart said. "This meant we didn't have any certificated positions we could cut."

Taggart said it was determined that the district's support staff is already understaffed and reductions in hours or positions would impact safety and quality of education.

"We chose instead to reduce all staff's pay by having six furlough days," he said. "This across-the-board pay cut allowed us to keep support staff at the same levels."

When the federal government made stimulus funds available for salaries, the district added back the days.

The district's salaries have been frozen for two years and there are no major projects planned.

The district started this year with $21,095,000 in outstanding construction bonds. The bonds funded Timberlake High, Timberlake Junior High and Twin Lakes Elementary, a remodel for Lakeland Junior High, an expansion of Lakeland High, acquisition of a site for a future secondary school and smallerprojects.

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