The turnout at Tuesdays public-suggestion session on Nampa schools budget shortfall fell well below expectations, but the couple dozen people who attended had plenty of ideas and questions for the committee grappling with the deficit.
A four-day work week and pay for play fees for athletics and extracurricular activities are among the ideas subcommittees will study in the upcoming weeks as they strive to cut costs and raise revenues, budget committee co-chair Stuart Hartley said. The newly formed committee plans to meet weekly through the fall looking for ways to cut costs and raise revenue to resolve a projected $4.3 million shortfall.
There isnt anything we wont look at, Hartley said during a break in the evening session, held in Columbia High Schools expansive auditorium in case the number of people wanting to testify echoed the number who submitted written suggestions 383 people with about 950 ideas.
Some suggestions targeted the land three sites totaling about 140 acres the district purchased in the past eight years as locations for future schools. Some have suggested selling the property, and parent Robin Campagna suggested Tuesday that the district could look into using the land as collateral for a loan.
Committee member Jeff Agenbroad said the district could consider seeking a bond issue with the property as security, but that debt instrument would need to be approved by district voters.
One frequent suggestion was cutting transportation costs. Parents at Tuesdays session suggested eliminating busing for children who live within a 1.5 mile radius of their school, and paring services that take students to events or to another school where they take a course.
Transportation costs represent about 8 percent of the districts $66.7 million budget. The projected shortfall represents about 6.4 percent of the budget.
And one pervasive element at Tuesdays meeting was the worry that much of the budget savings would come at the expense of teachers, whose jobs make up more than 80 percent of the districts budget.
Were concerned. Were scared, said one middle school teacher who didnt give her name.
I get that the biggest chunk is personnel, so its easy to think we should cut there, but its the biggest chunk for a reason, said Mandy Simpson, new president of the Nampa Education Association and a member of the budget committee. District officials have said they dont expect to cut teachers jobs and note that teachers have a contract. But open positions have gone unfilled, and Simpson said her average class size has risen from 17 last year to 35 this year.
The possibility of furlough days for teachers and other staff came up frequently during the discussion.
Columbia High teacher and golf coach Ken Quick urged the committee not to make cuts in sports and the coaching positions that many teachers rely on for extra income. Simpson and others urged the committee to find many small ways to find money rather than looking for one or two big cuts.
If we whittle away at the small stuff, we can make it, Simpson.
Reportedly caused by an assortment of budgeting errors in the past two years, the shortfall was discovered and initially estimated at $2.8 million in August. After heightened budget scrutiny this month, that estimate rose to $4.3 million.
Longtime Superintendent Gary Larsen submitted his resignation, and the search has begun for a new leader. The school board has asked for an independent audit.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447