POST FALLS - It's on to the voters.
The Post Falls School Board on Monday night unanimously decided to forward Superintendent Jerry Keane's recommended supplemental levy proposal of $4,255,000 per year for two years on to voters on March 12.
The four voting members of the board voted in favor of the proposal. Board member Steve Gobin was absent.
"The money from the levy is not fluff," board member Michelle Lippert said. "It's absolutely essential to our operation. Without this levy, we'll be facing some very serious cuts to programs and positions.
"We have cobbled together every penny we have to maintain our programs. There is no fat in Post Falls."
If the proposal receives at least the simple majority (50 percent, plus one vote) it needs to pass, residents' school district taxes won't be raised because of a retiring bond debt for Prairie View Elementary.
If the levy fails, it would reduce taxes by $47 a year for a home with $100,000 of taxable value.
Even if the levy passes, Post Falls would still be among the lowest districts in the state when it comes to using supplemental funds per student. That amount would be $747, whereas most districts are in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.
The proposal represents the current supplemental levy approved by voters in 2011 for $2.615 million per year for two years, plus an additional $1.6 million per year for two years.
The district believes the levy is critical since the state has reduced its appropriation to Post Falls School District by more than $3.2 million since 2009, going from $26.5 million to $23.3 million.
The district reduced its expenditures across the board by $1.5 million in response.
While the cuts have been difficult, student programming has been protected.
The rub is that the difference between the $3.2 million in state cuts and the $1.5 million in district cuts has been covered by one-time monies, including the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus), state Maintenance of Effort funds and district reserves.
All of those funds will be exhausted at the end of this fiscal year and, without an infusion of more funds, the district will have to eliminate some programs, at least 25 teaching positions and face increased class sizes.
District officials said all programs - from advanced student learning to extra-curricular activities - would be affected to some extent. The school supply budget - already cut in half since 2009 - would take another hit.
The levy proposal includes $40,000 per year to add a third school resource officer to enhance safety after last month's Connecticut school shooting tragedy.
Post Falls considered privatizing its bus system several years ago to cut costs, but is not proposing that because it would be difficult to return the system back to the district after it commits to a vendor.
The Lakeland School District is not considering a levy proposal this year.