NAMPA Worried teachers packed the Nampa School District boardroom Tuesday night, anxious to find out what might happen to their contracts and their jobs as the district tries to dig itself out of a $4.3 million budget shortfall.
Teachers are afraid, one said, drawing emphatic nods from peers.
No decision has been made to force teachers to take furlough days or accept other new concessions, but the board moved Tuesday to require all classified staff members to take four furlough days spread over the remainder of the school year.
Interim Superintendent Thomas Michaelson said many or most of those workers had volunteered to take unpaid days.
The move drew a strong rebuke from Mandy Simpson, president of Nampas teachers union.
That hits hard. A lot of our classified staff take home about $13,000 per year, Simpson said. And youre going to take four days pay out of 13,000 salary. Digest that a minute.
Simpson stressed that many classified staffers work only on days students are in the classroom, so losing them would have a huge impact on teachers and students. She said that classrooms are already coping with $2.1 million in cuts that eliminated substitute teachers, slashed supplies and left positions unfilled, increasing some class sizes.
Board members said they empathize and agree, but tough decisions need to be made.
Michaelson said all district employees, including teachers, are invited to take furlough days voluntarily. Administrators have agreed to take four or more unpaid days, he said.
If all district employees took four furlough days, it would pare $1 million or more from the budget and go quite a ways toward solving the cash flow problem that were facing, Michaelson said.
District officials are also looking into the possibility of declaring a financial emergency, which would allow them to reopen the contract with teachers. Several teachers who declined to give their names said they would be willing to take furlough days but are opposed to reopening contract talks because they fear that the district would hit them with cuts.
Simpson urged the board to focus its debt-solving efforts on a supplemental levy election this spring, choosing an option that would restructure existing bond debt so that district property owners taxes would not go up under the new one-year levy.
That option would mean our students arent paying for the mistakes of a few people, Simpson said.
A new levy, if approved by voters in March, could bring in the full $4.3 million.
District officials say the deficit was created by several big budgeting errors over the past two years that caused it to believe it had millions more than it actually had.
Before any levy could be voted on, the board is considering borrowing money to cover cash flow.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447