by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer
The American Falls School District is asking patrons to increase their contribution through a supplemental levy of $660,000 for two years.
The American Falls School Board decided to place the levy request on the Tuesday, March 12, ballot after the release of Governor Butch Otter’s budget during the State of the State address.
Superintendent Dr. Ron Bolinger said the previous levy passed in November of 2012 was kept at the same level of previous levies in the hopes other funding streams from the state level would materialize to offset coming cost increases.
“When we did the base levy the board wanted to watch what was happening. The economy, at the time, was looking good, but after the governor’s budget was announced it was obvious there will be no new money from the state,” said Bolinger.
Bolinger said the reasoning for the new levy is not a complicated story to tell.
“This is not a complex issue. This levy is for operations. We knew that we would have to cut our budget, but there are things we have to have, and those costs stay the same. We patrons and students come into our building they expect the lights to be on and the heat to be up. This levy is to pay for those things we need to have when our doors open each day,” said Bolinger.
The school district is anticipating a loss of revenue for the 2013-14 fiscal year of of $935,000. There are three factors contributing to the loss. The first is the ending of the conversion levy of $360,000. The conversion levy was money saved by the district by refinancing the bonds used to build the new high school. That money was then converted over to operating funds for the district. The second is the expiration of short-term funding from the federal government totaling $325,000. The final factor is a loss of $250,000 in state funding.
There are two major expenditure increases that are further exacerbating the district’s budget crunch. The district is expecting an increase in employer benefit contributions of over $70,000 and an increase in mandated technology upgrades of over $22,000.
The school district calculates the total budget shortfall for fiscal year 2013-14 to be $1,028,000.
District leaders have looked at their budgets and found several places to save money.
“We have faced the large drop off in money with creativity. We have been able to take some of the federal money, and made it last an extra year. We have found over $300,000 in savings through not replacing departing staff and realigning certain job duties. We have also found about $55,000 in supplies, materials and travel,” said Bolinger.
Bolinger said the effort to find cuts is continuing, but the numbers are not certain.
“We have made one pass through our schools, and are currently taking a second look at things we can do to save even more money. There is a possibility we will be able to carry what savings we find over to next year, but we won’t be certain of how much we saved until this fiscal year is over,” said Bolinger.
The school district calculates the monthly increase to a home valued at $120,000 to $4.56 per month, the increase per 160 acre section of farmland to be $30.32 per month.
Bolinger said the American Falls School District is meeting the needs of the students but needs the additional money to maintain that level of education.
“The challenge of education is greater than ever before, but our ability to meet those challenges is amazing. What we provide our students with, what we have is a miracle. This is about maintaining the opportunities we offer our children,” said Bolinger.
Voting for the two year supplemental levy will be Tuesday, March 12, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voters living in precinct one will vote at the Power County EMS Building, 560 North Oregon Trail in American Falls.
Voters located in precinct two will cast ballots at the American Falls Library, 308 Roosevelt Street in American Falls.
Patrons living in precinct three will vote at the Power County Courthouse Annex, 500 Pocatello Avenue in American Falls.
Voters in precinct six will vote at the Pocatello Municipal Airport, and Cassia County voters will vote by mail.