Less than a week before the school year starts in Nampa, school board members received the stunning news.
To balance this years budget, we must reduce spending by $2.8 million, Deputy Superintendent Joshua Jensen told them Tuesday, presenting a slate of proposals to make up for the shortfall.
About 39 open positions will go unfilled; substitute teaching and supply budgets will be slashed; transportation costs likely will be pared; and the district hopes to restore $700,000 by reallocating federal funds that are no longer needed for their budgeted purpose.
Jensen attributed the problem to a series of pretty significant finance and budgeting errors over the past two school years that led the district to spend more than it had.
Were dealing with cuts that we should have made before, he said. As far as I know the cause was just plain old human error.
I dont think it was malicious, I dont think there was intent. It just happened.
Words such as crisis factored into the discussion at Tuesdays board meeting, but response from the board and school leaders was calm and measured.
A mistake was made, we caught it, weve got a plan to fix it, and lets move on, Board Chairman Scott Kido said.
Superintendent Gary Larsen stressed that the focus will be on protecting student achievement and the people who teach. Some teachers likely will be reassigned to fill vacancies.
Most Nampa teachers, who return to the classroom Wednesday to prepare for the new school year, dont know about the cuts yet, said new Nampa Education Association President Mandy Simpson.
No one will lose their jobs, but is it going to affect everyones job? Definitely, Simpson told the Statesman. She anticipates extra duties for teachers and extra expenses for those who will try to augment supplies out of their own pockets.
We have amazing teachers in Nampa, and we are going to go in there and do the best we can, she said.
The toughest times for all of us are going to be in a couple of months when the weight of this begins to fall on shoulders, said Pete Koehler, chief educational officer of Nampa High School and the middle schools that feed into it.
Well be challenged, but well be fine, and our children will continue to get a first-class education.
WHAT ABOUT THE LEVY?
The deficit is nearly twice as big as the supplemental levy that Nampa district residents will vote on Aug. 28. At $1.6 million per year for two years, that levy would pick up where the previous supplemental levy, for the same amount, left off.
If there was ever, ever a time to feel urgency to pass the levy, its now, said Lynn Borud, who heads the committee advocating for it.
The levy has not been factored into the districts budget for the coming year, Jensen said. Staff will prepare a revised budget to present to the board at its next meeting, factoring in the shortfall and, if the levy passes, those funds.
The mistakes, discovered last week, include counting the same state revenue stream in two different budget years; budgeting twice as much money from another source as was actually received; and significantly miscalculating salary revenue. That shortfall represents about 4.2 percent of the districts $66.8 million budget for the 2012-13 school year.
Jensen said increases in his scope of responsibility led to less oversight on my part, and I take responsibility for that.
The districts previous finance officer resigned in January, and Larsen said a key part of the districts response to the shortfall will be to ensure that similar errors wont happen again.
He introduced the districts new finance officer, Michelle Yankovich, who starts Monday.
We even told her what our problem was with the deficit, and she still agreed to come, Larsen said.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447