The Coeur d'Alene School District is now going over a fiscal cliff school systems nationwide began hitting at the end of 2011 when about $100 billion in federal stimulus funds for education started running out.
District 271 has, until now, been able to pull away from the edge by using money from its fund balance reserve, but that revenue option has dried up and the result is a $3 million shortfall school officials have been talking about since last fall.
Most of the funds in question came into the district when the federal Education Jobs Act was signed into law in 2010. The money was distributed to states to save teachers' and school employees' jobs and help maintain instructional time for students as state and local revenue funds dried up. Idaho's share was $51 million, and Coeur d'Alene received $1.8 million.
The distribution was announced in the fall, early in the 2010-11 fiscal year, shortly after the close of the 2009-10 fiscal year, when the state education budget was slashed by an unprecedented $128 million. Between 2009 and 2011, Coeur d'Alene's public schools experienced a $6.1 million drop in state funding.
The $1.2 million balance of the $3 million shortfall stems from the district's loss of state funding between 2009 and 2011. During those years, the district's state appropriation was slashed by $6.1 million and school officials were able to dip into the district's then robust fund balance to make up the difference.
Wendell Wardell, the district's chief operations officer, told The Press there are no excess fund balance dollars to use for next year's budget.
"The district hoped over time the state funding would be restored; it hasn't happened," Wardell said.
The Education Jobs Act money had to be spent over a 27-month period that is now coming to an end. In Coeur d'Alene, and in other districts, the funds were used to restore budget cuts to personnel and instructional time.
Back in 2010, the district used most of the $1.8 million to restore six days furloughed from the 2010-11 school calendar. All school district employees would have felt a 3.2 percent salary reduction, and students would have lost those hours in the classroom, had the furlough days remained in place.
The district saved the remaining $600,000, and used it the following year.
Allowable uses for the Education Jobs Act funds included compensation for school-level personnel - teachers, principals, assistant principals, para professionals, bus drivers, food service personnel, school nurses, counselors and librarians. The money could not be used for district-level administrative costs or personnel, higher education or rainy day funds.