The Nampa School District is mired in a serious budget crisis. Accounting errors discovered last summer have put the state’s third largest district deep in the red. The deficit is now believed to be more than $4 million.
An 18 person committee is working on ways to fill the budget hole. They have a long list of ideas but most need a lot of research. District spokesperson Allison Westfall says they have to find out if they’d work, how they’d affect students and even if they’re legal. For example they don’t know if schools can do differed compensation.
“So employees could essentially loan the school district some of their money to help offset the deficit,” Westfall explains. “And then they would be paid back with interest. So instead of borrowing from a bank maybe you would borrow from your employees.”
So far the committee has made only three recommendations: apply for a grant to help bus kids to afterschool programs, sell some district owned land, and start charging fees for activities like sports and school dances. That’s something many districts already do, but Westfall says Nampa has resisted it because of the district’s large percentage of low income families.
There is time pressure on the teachers, administrators and members of the public who make up the budget committee.
“If nothing changes then we would end the year in a deficit,” Westfall says. “So there is some urgency to find that short term plan and that long term plan.”
That short term plan is the hard one. And it’s needed because the district is already making deep cuts. Funds for supplies, transportation and substitutes have already been gutted.
One final example from the budget committee’s ideas: Since student attendance largely determines how much money districts get from the state, if Nampa students miss fewer days of school the district gets more money. But if the schools did increase attendance that money wouldn’t come until next school year.