When the Board makes a decision to go with a levy it will be up to BCSD staff and community to support it. Be in the know, come to the Board Meeting Tomorrow Night December 12, 2017 and get the scoop.
What we know. . . So where do we go from here?
Revenues have been flat since 2006.
In 2006, after reworking the state funding model for schools and switching from property tax to sales tax, the legislature saw fit to hold Blaine County harmless financially. Currently the District collects approximately $2.6 million from a permanent levy and $30 million from the stabilization levy. This was done because Blaine County schools were looking at devastating cuts to funding and programing. These levies are currently capped at those 2006 levels. This number has not changed and has been approximately $32 million dollars per year since that time.
In addition, in 2009, the state suffering a recession drastically cut funding to schools statewide. The state legislature has been working the last couple of years to return the funding back to 2009 levels. Currently we are at about 2008 levels. It is now 2017 almost 2018! School districts all over idaho are using supplemental levies to fill the gap. In 2017, 93 of 115 Idaho School districts used two year levies to supplement their income in order to function. This is up from 60 Districts 10 years ago.
See Future Revenue Discussion and Survey Results Regular Board Meeting Sept. 12, 20
Expenses have exceeded revenue and we have been spending down reserves.
From 2012-2015, BCSD has been spending more than it is generating. Reserves were rapidly being depleted in order to cover the growth in expenses.
Blaine County provides programing far exceeding the minimum state standards providing essential services and extra curriculars for the students of Blaine County.
Blaine County students have a higher staff to student ratio than most of the state and a wealth of special education and enrichment programs for students including but certainly not limited to:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder Program
- English Language Learning Services
- Dual Immersion Program at Alturas Elementary, Wood River Middle School, and Wood River HS
- Hemingway STEAM Program
- All day kindergarten
- Extracurriculars such as Music, Sports, Outdoor Education, Drama, Robotics, Speech and Debate,
We have made cuts in the last three years.
To balance the budget cuts were made to teaching positions, transportation, supply budgets, district office staff, buildings and grounds summer maintenance, professional development for staff, and Additionally, major cuts to insurance have been agreed to through Master Agreement Negotiations on behalf of BCSD employees as an attempt to reign in the ever increasing cost of health care.
For the most part, the Board has protected programs and class sizes when making cuts.
See Past Budget Reductions Memo for details.
Inflation has decreased purchasing power.
Despite still collecting $32 million/year the value of that money has gone down by approximately 17%. What cost $32million in 2006 now costs $37 million. The cost of turning on the lights, heating the buildings, purchasing paper, running copy machines, putting gas in vehicles, feeding students, and much more has gone up.
Salaries for staff district wide have not kept pace with inflation. Purchasing power is down for everyone in the District.
The Board of Trustees made a promise to not collect the full amount of the existing Plant Facilities Levy.
The current plant facilities levy is used to pay for building maintenance and technology as well as accommodate any potential building and grounds emergencies should they occur. The levy also is used to make interest payments on a bond for HVAC building upgrades made in the last five years. This levy was passed with the expectation that it would run until 2022. If this amount is not collected from the public, those non-discretionary budget items will have to come out of the general fund further exacerbating the budget shortfall by approximately $7 million in 2021.
The Board of Trustees made a promise to establish a sequestered Unassigned Fund balance of 15-18% of the general fund in order to achieve a AAA Bond rating and save for a “rainy day” or financial emergency. They set the goal of accomplishing this by 2022.
Currently there is $3.5 million set aside and the District is maintaining the state mandated 5% of operating expenses as a contingency fund.
Most of the registered voters in Blaine County are 60 years or older.
This demographic does not have children in schools. When surveyed over the summer, registered voters emphasized the importance of saving for the future.
So what does this all mean?
The Board convened the Finance Committee this fall to begin looking at options regarding revenues. Made up of community members and District Staff including a BCEA Member, Jamie Harding, the Finance Committee met in a Board work session last week to discuss their findings. After lengthy discussions which involved bringing the committee up to speed on the overwhelming world of school finance, they are recommending the Board beginning discussions on running a supplemental levy. From the Finance Committee’s own presentation to the Board you can get a sense of where the community lies on this issue.
“While cuts to programs and staff may be part of the solution, and private fundraising may be part of the solution, the District will need to ask for one and maybe two property tax levies:
- A supplemental levy every 2 years
- Another plant facilities levy when the current one runs out.”
It is clear from the Finance committee meetings and their recommendations to the Board that the community feels that the District has not made enough cuts. In addition, the survey data completed this past summer by Kathryn Goldman and Wood River Consulting showed that long term economic stability and savings is popular among voters.
Though more cuts to education in Blaine County are likely eminent to keep the school district’s budget even, tomorrow evening the Board of Trustees will begin discussion about running a two year supplemental levy. There are still a lot of questions to be answered. How much will be collected? Will there be more cuts? If so, where will these cuts occur? How much of the money collected will go into the Unassigned Fund Balance. How do you fulfill the promises made by past Boards at the Board table to the public and still fully fund education in Blaine County?
We need you there! Please listen, contemplate, and comment.
6pm Minnie Moore Room December 12, 2017
2017 Survey results on revenue solutions - Regular Board Meeting Sept. 12, 2017
Blaine County School District 5-Year Budget Shortfall: What We Know - Board Work Session Dec. 7, 2017
Past Budget Reductions - December 1, 2017