Nampa School District, which just months ago battled financial bungling, a school closure and teachers leaving the district for jobs elsewhere, will ask taxpayers next year for more money to repair some of the damage.
The question is whether Nampa residents have regained enough confidence in the district and board to open their wallets.
A supplemental levy, in some respects, is a vote of confidence or no confidence in the sitting board, said Brian McGourty, a former board member who was re-elected last May. He was a critic of district operations that led to a $5 million deficit.
I dont like having to go back to the public this early, McGourty said. I dont know whether there is another alternative.
Nampa isnt the only school district that may come to property taxpayers for money in 2014. Meridian School District is considering asking voters to extend or expand the $14 million-a-year levy that helped restore lost teaching days and positions.
All this is unfolding as a state task force on education reform has recommended restoring $82 million to school districts lost during the recession. Lawmakers are expected to consider that in January.
Nampa taxpayers are footing the bill for a $1.6 million levy that expires in 2014. The board is expected to decide in a few weeks whether to ask for about the same or more to help recover from furloughs, replace outdated computer equipment and more.
Over the past five years, Nampa voters have approved four of five supplemental levies, including one for $4.3 million in March to help Nampa schools get out of the financial mess.
None of the money generated from a new supplemental levy would go to fill the financial hole the district dug over several years, said Pete Koehler, district interim superintendent.
But filling that hole did bleed the district reserve fund so low that the district hopes for $700,000 from the next supplemental levy to replenish the fund that helps Nampa schools cover unexpected expenses.
We have 15,000 children and weve been (living) paycheck to paycheck, Koehler said.
Trustees voted Tuesday to approve a supplemental levy election but didnt set an amount or a date for the election. Some board members are looking at March.
In the next few weeks, trustees will listen to the public. They are tentatively planning to meet with stakeholders, such as Nampa teachers and community groups, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district office. The trustees also will hold a town hall meeting where the public can give its views; the date for that meeting wasnt available Wednesday.
We want them to be fully aware of what we are doing, said Bob Otten, a trustee and former fourth-grade teacher in Nampa. I think we can rebuild trust and let the people know we are not trying to pull the wool over their eyes.
As the Nampa School District tumbled into financial trouble, parent Molly Lenty sat on committees that made some of the toughest decisions. She even supported closing Sunny Ridge Elementary, where one of her children went to school.
I understood the impact, she said.
But following those bleak days, Lenty said, shes seen improvement in the district much of it from Koehler, who replaced interim Superintendent Tom Michaelson.
I think Pete Koehler has done a really great job of getting out into the community, Lenty said.
Koehler has a priority list of spending for levy money totaling $2.8 million. That includes restoring about half of the 14 furlough days, including five instruction days; restoring 10 teaching positions of 46 that were cut through attrition; replenishing the reserve fund; and adding money for new computer equipment and Idaho Core Standards curriculum.
If the board backs his plan for a $2.8 million annual levy, the cost to the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 would rise from $50 a year now to about $85.
Mike Fuller, a new board member, said he has no problems asking voters for the money, which he calculates would be pennies a day for two years.
Nampas current supplemental levies average out to $101 per child the lowest of the Treasure Valley districts, Fuller said. The next lowest is $315 per child in Middleton, according to the district.
Lenty doesnt think raising the levy is out of reach for the district.
There is room for the community to consider supporting education at a more measurable rate (compared) to neighboring communities, she said.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts