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Post Falls plans school levy in March

by Brian Walker
| November 21, 2010 8:00 PM

POST FALLS - The Post Falls School District plans to ask voters on March 8 to approve a two-year supplemental levy due to expiring one-time federal stimulus funds and further state budget woes expected.

Superintendent Jerry Keane said a levy amount is expected to be determined in January, but it will likely be more than the existing supplemental levy of $1.79 million per year for two years that expires at end of the fiscal year on June 30.

"We may be able to run a levy without raising taxes, but we may have to ask for a small increase in taxes," Keane said, adding that the highest tax hike that has been discussed, if needed, is $10 to $20 per year for the owner of a $250,000 home. "We're still analyzing.

"There's no doubt that we've got financial issues that need to be dealt with. We hope we don't have to get into wholesale layoffs or further cuts that affect student programs. We need some additional help to do the job our patrons want us to do."

Keane said the district could raise the new levy amount by roughly $400,000 per year from the existing levy without increasing taxes.

The district has had to ask voters to supplement the state's appropriation with a levy for at least the past 25 years. The money has been used to prop up technology, curriculum, maintenance and other programs.

A vote of at least 50 percent would be needed for the proposal to pass.

The district has used $850,000 in stimulus funding for special education and Title I reading for each of the past two years to fill holes in its general fund created by a loss in state funds, but that money won't be available next year.

"That money has been used to keep people employed over the past two years," Keane said.

Compounding the funding woes is that legislators predict another bleak year for state money for schools.

"It is possible that we may receive another cut in our already reduced appropriation," Keane said. "We are still having financial difficulties based on the fact that the state has reduced our appropriation by $3 million over the past two years. Every part of our business has already been affected."

Keane said the district will still likely need to make cuts, even if the levy passes. It has not added positions nor increased salaries during the recession.

Keane said the district realizes even the possibility of having to raise taxes is a "difficult conversation."

"We know our community is hurting as well," he said. "We'll walk as softly as we can, but we're squeezed to the point that it will be difficult to offer quality programs without additional revenue somewhere. We'll balance all the needs and come up with a proposal that we believe will be in the best interest of all parties.

"We don't want to get to the point where we feel we're compromising a quality education for the kids."

Keane said the school board is expected to further discuss the levy in December before setting a proposed amount in January.

Coeur d'Alene will also float a levy in March. Lakeland will not be floating a supplemental proposal as it is in the middle of its two-year levy.

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