Schools receive extra funding

Idaho districts will split $60 million in surplus revenue

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COEUR d'ALENE - Furlough days will be reinstated, textbooks and classroom materials will be replaced, and funding for some after-school activities will be replenished. Those are just some of the ways area school districts will spend their shares of $60 million in surplus revenue funds headed for Idaho school district coffers.

Gov. Butch Otter's office on Tuesday announced that the final figures for fiscal year 2011, which ended June 30, show Idaho took in $85.3 million more in tax revenue than projected in January by the state's financial managers.

The state's community colleges will receive an additional $7.5 million.

School district budget planners knew early last spring that the state's general fund tax revenues were coming in at higher amounts than expected, and that a surplus would likely result.

During budget planning and teacher negotiations earlier this year, local districts included plans for additional funds they might receive. They received more than they anticipated.

"Obviously, we're ecstatic to have it," said Matt Handelman, the Coeur d'Alene School District's associate superintendent. "But, we have to be very judicious in how we allocate it because it is one-time money."

Coeur d'Alene schools are slated to receive $2.1 million.

New textbooks and classroom materials, and a new bus will be purchased with $600,000. Another $408,000 will be used to restore two furlough days previously removed from the Coeur d'Alene teachers contract during negotiations.

The remaining $1.1 million will be split between the district and employees who did not receive additional salary compensation for experience or additional education received. Those employees will share 20 percent, or $211,886, as a one-time payment, and the district will receive 80 percent, or $847,544.

The school district has not yet determined how it will spend the additional funds.

"We do have a short list of items we knew we wanted to pay attention to," Handelman said.

Some money may be directed to replenish cuts made to reading and remediation programs, Handelman said, and to restore funding for high school prevention specialists who provide crisis intervention and prevention support for students.

The district will likely save some of the funds so they can use it in the future.

"We're tickled," said Jerry Keane, Post Falls superintendent. "This will help us get through the next year in reasonable fashion."

Keane's district will receive $1.2 million.

Per its agreement with the teachers union, the Post Falls district will increase its contribution toward family health insurance premiums by 4 percent, raising the district's share to 74 percent. The amount had decreased from 80 percent to 70 percent during negotiations. The 4 percent increase represents $124,000.

Post Falls will also implement a math curriculum for grades 1-8 that's been on hold for three years. Books, materials and staff development will cost $214,000.

Keane said the district will also consider adding back personnel or staff hours where needed.

"The rest we hope to hold onto with potential other budget problems next year," he said. "We'll have needs in the future."

Post Falls teachers have agreed to take one furlough day, which will not be restored with the funding.

Lakeland finance director Tom Taggart said word that his district would receive $923,261 was "very good news."

The Lakeland district will use $204,000 to restore three furlough days; and spend the remainder on textbook reductions, library reductions, educational pay steps for teachers, bus depreciation, and the district's extracurricular budget.

The surplus funding gives new life to the golf programs at Lakeland and Timberlake high schools, which were on the chopping block, Taggart said.

"There have not been any final decisions yet, but the amount of the surplus should allow the golf program to continue in some manner," he said.

North Idaho College will receive $1.8 million.

John Martin, NIC's vice president for community relations, said the college has not yet determined how it will use the surplus money.

"The funds are provided with the general guidance that they be used to help deal with the rapid and dramatic enrollment increases over the past few years," Martin told The Press.

Because it is one-time money, the college won't use it to pay for something that needs ongoing budget support, Martin said. Equipment, renovation and remodeling, and building projects are some ways the funds might be spent.

The administration will recommend budget expenditures and the college's board of trustees will make the final decision, likely at its August meeting.

"While this is a significant amount of additional funding, it does not nearly address the almost $3 million in requests that went unfunded in our current budget," Martin said. "Given that, we will make very good use of it."

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