Lake Pend Oreille School District to host hearing on 2023-’24 budget

Meanwhile, state officials haggle over funding formulas for Idaho schools

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Board of trustee members for the Lake Pend Oreille School District will hold a public hearing Tuesday, June 13, parsing through the 2023-’24 fiscal year budget at the Pend Oreille Events Center (401 Bonner Mall Way).

The hearing will begin at 5 p.m., while copies of the proposed, tentative budget document will be available for inspection at the LPOSD office (901 N. Triangle Drive, in Ponderay) from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday until the meeting date, and will be available at the hearing. 

According to the draft budget summary, the proposed total for LPOSD maintenance operations in 2023-’24 is $45,454,827, up from $40,866,262 in 2022-’23.

That includes $31,288,752 in state tax revenue; $13,252,455 in local revenue; $175,000 in transfers and $62,000 in other local funding.

The largest line items among expenses is $26,660,340 in salaries and $10,707,772 in benefits — up from just more than $23 million in salaries and $9.3 million in benefits in 2022-’23. Purchased services amount to $3 million, while supplies and materials run to nearly $2.4 million. Other costs include $1 million in transfers and indirect cost; $871,489 in capital outlay; $395,824 for insurance and judgements; and $389,231 in the contingency reserve.

Maintenance and operations fund figures include the $12.7 million supplemental levy, made permanent by 51.3% of voters in 2019. 

While state funding has increased, the issue has been a political football in recent years — ramping up with vigor during the past legislative session and, in particular, since late May in a tussle over funding formulae. 

Idaho Gov. Brad Little has championed big investments in Idaho education, which, while representing the largest single piece of the state budget, is still consistently ranked at or near the bottom nationally for school spending. To help correct that, and stem a continuing flow of teachers away from Idaho in search of better pay in surrounding states, Little supported K-12 budget bills in the 2023 Legislature that teed up a total of $381 million to flow into education coffers.

However, according to a May 31 report from Boise-based, opposition is mounting to a potential $115 million cut to K-12 funding that would reduce Little’s “promise” to add $330 million to K-12 funding in the coming fiscal year, beginning July 1.

Grassroots nonprofit organization Reclaim Idaho and its supporters statewide circulated a petition critical of a move by Little and lawmakers that reversed a policy put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic that pegged education dollars to the number of students enrolled in school. 

Rather, the current formula allocates monies based on attendance by students, which Idaho Ed News pointed out, is “an inherently smaller number than overall student enrollment.”

According to a spokesperson from the governor’s office, Little “believes education should be in-person and student-focused in order to improve student outcomes.”

If Idaho school funding is tied to attendance, Reclaim Idaho, policy observers and many education officials around the state fear that “$115 million is on the chopping block,” Idaho Ed News reported. However, Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville, originally of Sandpoint, said May 30 that if attendance hits the 90% range, it would mean $100 million for school funding, though those dollars would flow into a stabilization fund.

“It’s being held back,” Idaho Ed News quoted Mayville. “This pot of money does not do any good for Idaho students if it does not go out to the school districts.”

Reclaim is widely regarded as being instrumental in getting the historic education funding package through the 2023 Legislature — fronting a voter initiative that called for $330 million in tax increases on the highest-earning tax filers in the state, with proceeds benefiting K-12 education. Before the measure could land on the ballot, however, Little called lawmakers into session for one day only in September 2022 to hammer out a $650 million tax reduction and $410 million for ed funding — that number including the $330 million called for by Reclaim to benefit K-12 instruction. Reclaim then suspended its initiative.

While the wrangling over education budgets continues at the state level, members of the public in the Lake Pend Oreille School District are invited to submit written comments on the 2023-’24 proposed appropriations by emailing LPOSD Board Clerk Kelly Fisher at [email protected].

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