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School budget balances for the first time in years

School budget balances for the first time in years

BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho - Local school districts are looking at a larger budget than they have had in years. In the 2014 Legislative Session, Idaho lawmakers approved a 5.1 percent increase to the public education budget.

Bonneville School District 93 will vote on its budget Wednesday night; Idaho Falls District 91 approved its budget on Tuesday.

"The information the School Board received last night was much more encouraging than a year ago at this time, when we were reducing our budget by $4.2 million," said George Boland, superintendent for District 91.

That meant making substantial cuts, including staff and a medical stipend for employees. Boland described it as a "painful process."

This year, D91 has $2.4 million more from the state. Between that increase and the cuts, D91 has its first balanced budget in a few years. While that is progress, there is still work to be done.

"There is still a $2,000 difference on the base (pay) of the teacher index from what we had in' 08-'09. So that is a significant amount of money when you multiply it through the index. We still don't have the operational funds we had in 2008-2009," said Boland.

The increase in funds this year is allocated to specific budgets.

"It's 1 percent on the base and they are giving us some leadership money, over $600,000 that will go in the hands of teachers," said Chuck Shackett, superintendent in D93.

Shackett says almost 90 percent of D93's budget goes to benefits and salaries. To make it through recent years, the district has had to use savings. The account may be near 3 percent of its operational budget.

"We usually keep at it 5 percent, which covers your costs in a district for about 21 days," said Shackett.

D93 will get about $4.8 million more than last year. That number is larger than D91's because of growth, which brings other challenges.

"The bonds we are running are to build our schools, and the last one didn't pass unfortunately. So we are going to be very overcrowded, and to address that problem comes out of a completely different budget. Those dollars come out of bonds, the state doesn't give any money for buildings," said Shackett.

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