Voters hold purse strings for cash strapped schools

Voters hold purse strings for cash strapped schools
BOISE, Idaho - Reading, writing, and arithmetic… it’s not just kids struggling with numbers these days. School districts are having a tough time getting the figures to add up.

“We're in a very serious situation when it comes to operational budgets and being able to do what we do,” Dan Hollar, Boise School District spokesman said.

After the next school year, The Boise School District is facing an ongoing $15 million budget shortfall. In March of 2012, it will ask voters to approve a five-year levy. It would cost taxpayers an additional $14 million a year.

“That would provide revenue to continue to do what we do - operate reasonably sized classrooms and it won't go toward any administrative salaries. It will go toward supporting those classrooms as they exist today,” Hollar said.

If voters march to the polls and reject the levy, Hollar says class sizes will likely go up by four to six students.

“That's not good for kids,” Hollar said.

After weathering the financial storm for the past few years, the Nampa School District is now talking about asking voters to make up for a drop in state education funding. The school board recently met to talk about two levies that would cost taxpayers $3.1 million a year.

“We need to upgrade the reading curriculum, that's important, the same with maintenance. You have an obligation to maintain our buildings, if you let them go down it's just going to cost more in the future,” said Scott Kido, a Nampa School Board member.

Nampa has additional problems.

The district says overcrowding is a growing concern. It needs to build a new high school, middle school and alternative school. It might ask voters to approve a bond on top of the levies.

“If I could lump them together I'd say all three (are important). The one we could probably put off would be the high school and middle school, but I look at the curriculum and there are some tremendous needs.

School districts in Nampa and Boise at least have hope that voters will agree to close their budget gaps. It's a different story at Joint School District No. 2.

“We were getting about $15 million in local revenue through a two- year supplemental levy. We ran that again this spring, we actually asked for $18.5 million and it was not approved by voters,” Eric Exline, Joint School District #2 Spokesman said.

Next year, Joint School District #2 is looking at a $4 million budget shortfall. Without an increase in state funding, after that, the number balloons up to $11 million for as far as the eye can see.

“Roofs need to get fixed, parking lots crack, you have to buy buses. There are those needs you don't want. Our community has invested a lot of money in our buildings and we have an obligation to maintain them,” Exline said.

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