NAMPA — A 16-person budget committee tasked with sorting out a $4.3 million Nampa School District budget shortfall learned how the district got to that point and began the process of determining how to fix it at its first meeting Tuesday evening.
Deputy Superintendent Joshua Jensen told the committee the budget shortfall was caused by errors in revenue forecasts, reporting revenue twice and a lack of budget monitoring. He couldn’t answer to the committee how those mistakes were made, but said the district will change how it monitors the budget in the future.
In the meantime it will be the budget committee’s job to examine every detail of it.
“The budget will be examined at a level it has never been looked at before,” School Board Chairman Scott Kido told the committee about the task ahead of it.
Nampa realtor Lynn Borud led the meeting Tuesday. After introductions, the committee agreed on a timeline for presenting its findings to the Board of Trustees. The group will form subcommittees at its next meeting that will meet more often than the committee as a whole. The budget committee will continue to meet every Tuesday. It plans to have short term solutions to recommend to the board by mid-November and long-term solutions by December.
Before the committee meets again, the public will have the opportunity to contribute ideas in a survey posted on the district’s website and Facebook page and will also have time to comment at the next budget committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday Oct. 16. The survey was expected to be available today. Survey participants can submit up to 10 ideas at a time for how to generate or save revenue.
Jensen presented the budget dilemma to the committee and the 15 or so audience members in attendance. The errors began in fiscal year 2011 when the district operated on a projected budget with a $1 million deficit — but instead projected a nearly $2 million surplus. Jensen said the mistake was camouflaged by $3 million in federal stimulus money that the district received but hadn’t budgeted for.
From there the problems continued. Federal money the district planned to split and spend over two years was mistakenly budgeted again for a third year and one-time federal funding was budgeted twice. State support was also overbudgeted by nearly $1 million.
“The bottom line is we’ve been spending too much money,” Jensen said.
But at a time when districts statewide were dealing with cuts in education funding, he heard comments from people about how Nampa was able to weather the storm unlike other districts in the area that were struggling.
It turned out the district wasn’t weathering the cuts and now that overspending has caught up to it, Jensen said.
The district previously announced the projected budget shortfall was at $4.5 million but that number was revised down slightly to $4.3 million. If the district does nothing, or the “status quo” number as Jensen put it, its projected revenue for fiscal year 2013 is about $66.7 million and its projected expenditures are about $68.8 million. But the district is also starting the year with a $2.2 million deficit which leaves the district with the $4.3 million deficit.
Committee members asked if there are parts of the budget that can’t be touched. About 84 percent is tied into salaries and benefits that go hand-in-hand and can’t be changed at this point, Jensen said. Other items such as transportation and utility costs are also set. But when the district first heard of the shortfall, it started to make changes. The expected expenditures for fiscal year 2013 are down about $3.5 million over last year.
The Nampa School Board met after the budget committee for its regular meeting.
A superintendent search committee has been formed to find a replacement for Gary Larsen who resigned in September.
Members of the superintendent search committee include:
- Laurie Boeckel, legislative vice president of Idaho Parent Teacher Association
- Richard Hagood, president emeritus of Northwest Nazarene University
- Shannon Hotchkiss, music teacher at Reagan Elementary School
- Pete Koehler, principal of Nampa High and CEO of Nampa cluster
- Brian McGourty, Nampa optometrist and former school board member
- Kristin Pancheri, former assistant director of Nampa Rec Center
- Gregg Russell, principal of Reagan Elementary School
- Al Sanchez, associate professor in graduate social work program at Northwest Nazarene University
- Ed Simmerman, human resources director for the city of Nampa
- Stuart Vickers, principal at South Middle School
The board voted to hire former Parma superintendent Roger Reynoldson as a consultant for the superintendent search. Reynoldson previously helped the Caldwell School District in its search for a superintendent, which resulted in the hiring of Tim Rosandick.
Although compensation is not final, district spokesperson Allison Westfall said he will likely receive $4,800 to $5,800 for his services.
Reynoldson suggested the district locate an interim superintendent who can fill in until July 1, possibly another retired superintendent from within the state.
The search committee will meet for the first time Wednesday.