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School boards approve budgets

by Brian Walker & Tom Hasslinger
| June 15, 2010 9:00 PM

Boards representing the area's three largest school districts approved fiscal 2011 budgets on Monday night that call for several cutbacks.

Coeur d'Alene adopted a $73.2 million total budget, Post Falls $39.5 million and Lakeland $31 million.

"I think we're at the tipping point," said Coeur d'Alene Superintendent Hazel Bauman. "I wouldn't recommend any more cuts. We've pared down and pared down."

Coeur d'Alene'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 is an overall decrease of 12.7 percent from this year's plan.

Coeur d'Alene trustees will use $2.2 million from the district's fund balance to help fill the budget hole and will save another $1.2 by an agreement with the teachers union 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.

"I am worried about the workload on some of our administrators," Bauman said. "These cuts are not without their negative effects. I hope we can start to rebuild."

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

The total budget represents a 12.9 percent cut.

"I just hope the economy turns around," board member Dave Paul said. "You can only do this so long before you really start to impact the classrooms."

Paul said it's easily the toughest budget cycle he has dealt with in the seven years he has been a board member.

"We had cutbacks last year, then when you tack on this year it makes it even harder," he said. "We tried to make the least amount of impact on the classroom and everyone came together on this. Everyone was impacted in some way. Thankfully we had some money in the fund balance because we even used some of that."

No one commented on the proposed budget itself during the public hearing.

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.

Other 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 will be moved under federal funding from the General Fund, saving $300,000 to the General Fund.

The district earlier 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.

Lakeland's budget was approved as presented.

Its 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 the levy, textbooks, library books and technology support was restored to the budget.

All employees will take 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. Other positions will not be filled until fall enrollment numbers are released.

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