With an estimated $4.3 million budget shortfall, the Nampa School District wants as many minds as possible to focus on potential solutions.
Kim Emerson, one of a handful of teachers and parents who attended the new budget committees first meeting Tuesday, said she has two ideas right now one to raise money and one to pare costs.
We could sell off some of the land were holding onto for future schools, said Emerson, an Owyhee Elementary third-grade teacher whose children graduated from Nampa schools. Were not crowded. We have room for growth in the schools we have.
Also, she said, the district should take a hard look at cutting the cost of school buses, especially for transporting kids to athletic events and other extracurricular activities.
Angela Locklin, who has two daughters in a Nampa elementary school, said she wants to make sure that teachers and students dont bear the brunt of cuts especially after hearing Tuesday that 84 percent of the districts budget is salaries,mostly for teachers.
District officials say that teachers who are under contract will not lose their jobs. But open positions have been frozen, increasing class sizes for some instructors.
Many more community member suggestions are expected next Tuesday, when the panel meets again at 5:30 p.m. Many of those ideas will come from a survey expected to be posted on the districts website Wednesday. District staff and parents will receive an email about the survey.
At Tuesdays meeting, Deputy Superintendent Josh Jensen presented data from the past two years showing that revenues and expenses were dramatically miscalculated with millions of dollars mistakenly duplicated in two consecutive annual budgets.
What Jensen couldnt answer was specifically how those things happened.
I dont know, he said. It doesnt make sense.
The bottom line is weve been spending too much money. ... And now its caught up to us.
Our first fatal flaw is it is obvious we were not performing adequate checks and balances to make sure budget expectations matched reality, he said.
Jensen said he and new budget officer Michelle Yankovich have been working to fix the districts financial processes.
He said the safeguards fell by the wayside three years ago amid budget cuts and staff changes, with staffers taking on additional duties. Jensen was in charge of the budget until about that time, then was promoted to oversee other operations in addition to finance.
He said he feels responsible because budgeting remained one of the areas under his supervision.
When the shortfall initially estimated at about $2.8 million was discovered over the summer, district leaders froze hiring and reduced the budgets for substitute teaching and supplies.
But much more must be done to balance the budget for this school year, Jensen said.
We need to think outside the box, he said. We need to be creative.
Locklin said parents and other members of the public are essential for finding those solutions not just in big-dollar items but in multitudes of smaller savings found by scrutinizing all aspects of district operation.
Its the peanuts that really make the whole picture, she said.
Leigha Call, an East Valley Middle School social studies teacher and parent of two middle schoolers, said her main objective in participating in the deficit-solving process is to make sure it doesnt happen again, that there are checks and balances.
Its not fair to our students and its not fair to our staff.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447