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Schools to mull budgets

by Brian Walker & MAUREEN DOLAN
| June 12, 2010 9:00 PM

School boards in the Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, Lakeland and Plummer-Worley districts are expected to approve reduced budgets for the next school year following hearings being held Monday in all districts.

Coeur d'Alene's hearing will be at 5 p.m. at the Midtown Center, 1505 N. Fifth St.; Post Falls' hearing is at 6 p.m. at City Hall; Lakeland's is at 6 p.m. at the district office; and Plummer-Worley's hearing is also at that district's central office at 7 p.m.

Here are the proposed budget highlights for each district:

Coeur d'Alene - The district's General Fund budget, which includes maintenance and operations dollars, is proposed to be $55.2 million, a 7.7 percent decrease from this year's $59.8 million budget.

The total budget for next year is $73.2 million, an overall decrease of 12.7 percent.

Coeur d'Alene trustees will be asked to approve the use of $2.2 million from the district's fund balance to help fill the budget hole.

"I am very appreciative of the fact we tightened our belts significantly over the last two years which resulted in a robust fund balance," said Coeur d'Alene Superintendent Hazel Bauman. "That fund balance, once brought into play for next school year, significantly mitigated what would have been horrendous cuts to programs, staff and staff compensation."

Through the school board's recent agreement with the teachers' union, another $1.2 million will be saved by furloughing all staff for six days.

Other proposed reductions include $148,593 from the maintenance budget, $120,000 from the School Resource Officers budget, $125,000 from the school building budgets and $125,000 from the transportation budget.

Additional proposed savings will be seen by the reduction of the equivalent of 9.2 full time teaching positions through attrition, and by leaving multiple administrative and support positions unfilled for the next year.

"Our fiscal conservatism paid off for our students, our staff and our community for next year; however, these cuts are not sustainable in the long term without negative effects on students," Bauman said.

Post Falls - The proposed General Fund budget is $26.6 million, a 9 percent reduction from the current year.

The total budget is $39.5 million, a 12.9 percent cut.

The board will consider a variety of proposed cuts.

"All employees will have reduced salary and benefits of at least 3.2 percent through either five furlough days or reduced hours for various classified employees," Superintendent Jerry Keane said.

Other proposed reductions are with administrative staff through attrition, school building and department budgets by 15 percent, travel and referee costs for extra-curricular activities and eliminating "B" middle school coaching positions.

Six FTE certified personnel positions are proposed to move under federal funding from the General Fund, saving $300,000 to the General Fund.

The district has signed an agreement with the teachers' union, calling for five furlough days and reduced medical benefits totaling a 3.2 percent decrease.

The district's goals were to preserve student programs and jobs and minimize the financial and emotional impact of the cuts on its employees when it crafted the budget, Keane said.

"These are certainly difficult times," Keane said. "However, the district was able to make the necessary budgetary reductions for next year in a fashion that honors the overall guiding principles set by the board, staff and community."

Lakeland - The proposed General Fund budget is $23.7 million, a 2 percent reduction from the current year.

The Special Funds budget is $7.3 million, a 10.7 percent reduction.

The budget was helped when voters last month approved a two-year supplemental levy of $3.25 million per year for two years.

"With our increased supplemental levy, we added back in cuts to textbooks and library books," said Tom Taggart, the district's finance manager. "We also absorbed cuts to state technology support with levy funding."

Still, all employees will have from five to seven furlough days, depending on the position, resulting in a pay cut of about 3 percent.

Some open support positions were reconfigured to fill them with part-time, non-benefited positions, Taggart said. "Other positions will not be filled until we see fall enrollment numbers."

There are some changes in the district's insurance plan, but no decrease in the portion the district pays, Taggart said.

Plummer-Worley - The total proposed budget for next year is $3.9 million, representing a 10 percent decrease from the current year's budget.

Trustees will consider smaller supply budgets, the reduction of two teaching positions through attrition and the reduction of two bus drivers and one custodian.

Through the school board's agreement with the teachers' union, additional savings will be realized by furloughing all staff for six days, and freezing salaries.

Superintendent Judi Sharrett said the district also needed to make sure they were prepared in the event of a mid-year holdback order of up to 10 percent.

"If you think back to your favorite stories from childhood, it is almost a sure thing a teacher will be involved with each memory," Sharrett said. "It is sad the people who spend the most hours with our children are taking home less for the valuable work they perform. Let's work together to turn this around."

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