POST FALLS - The Post Falls School Board is considering sending a supplemental levy proposal to voters on March 12.
The board will take action on Superintendent Jerry Keane's levy recommendation at its Jan. 14 meeting.
The levy proposal is $4.2 million per year for two years.
It represents the current supplemental levy approved by voters in 2011 for $2.6 million per year for two years, plus an additional $1.6 million per year for two years.
"The state has reduced its appropriation to Post Falls School District by more than $3.2 million since 2009," said Keane, referring to the need for additional funds. "While it is always difficult to discuss increasing our supplemental levy, we have no other options if we are going to maintain quality student programming. This is part of our long-range fiscal plan to offer quality programming and at the same time respect our community."
If the board agrees to forward Keane's recommendation to voters, a simple majority (50 percent, plus one vote) would be needed for the proposal to pass.
If the proposal is approved, it would not raise school district taxes because of a retiring bond debt for Prairie View Elementary.
However, if the proposal fails, it would reduce taxes by $45 a year for a home with $100,000 of taxable value.
The district is currently receiving $23.3 million from the state as compared to $26.5 million in 2009. The district reduced its expenditures by $1.5 in response, Keane said.
"This is a reduction in all areas of the budget, including certified and non-certified staff, administration, school supplies and extra-curricular activities," Keane said. "While these cuts have been difficult, we have been mostly successful in protecting student programming."
The rub, Keane said, 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 these funds will be exhausted at the end of the current fiscal year," Keane said. "Without an infusion of additional revenue, the district will face the elimination of student programming and significantly increased class sizes.
"The increase in levy funds should allow us to provide the programs that we offer this year."
Keane 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.
Board member Michelle Lippert calls the levy funding "absolutely essential" to the district.
"Our first goal is provide an excellent education for our students," she said. "This levy amount will allow us to continue to do that."
Keane said class sizes would have to be increased "because the only way we can reduce that kind of money is by reducing our teaching staff ... 25 or more," he said.
About 90 percent of the district's budget is personnel costs.
"Any further cuts will mean we are seriously compromising our ability to provide quality educational opportunities to our students," Keane said.
The district increased its levy amount two years ago to help reduce the impact of cuts.
Keane said the district considered privatizing its bus system several years ago to cut costs.
"At that time there were not going to be significant savings," Keane said. "One of the problems is that the district basically turns over its bus fleet to the vendor. The concern is that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to return the transportation to the district once you commit."
The Lakeland School District is not considering a levy proposal.
Voters in that district in August approved a plant facility levy of $800,000 per for five years that will fund building repairs, energy efficiency improvements, equipment, buses and classroom furniture. They also approved a supplemental levy last March.