As of Tuesday, October 24, 2017
GRANGEVILLE “It’s like losing your job and then trying to figure out, ‘OK, what do we do now?’” said Mountain View School District (MVSD) 244 superintendent Marc Scheibe.
Scheibe, along with school district business manager Becky Hogg, and director of special programs and curriculum Cody Weddle, met last week to visit about the district’s budget for 2018-19 as well as future years.
MVSD will not receive $1.1 million in forest funds again for the second year. Forest receipts and then Secure Rural Schools money has been used for decades to prop up the district’s operating budget and keep the supplemental levy as low as possible for the patrons. Last year the district received $56,000 in Forest receipts and expects to receive about that same amount this year.
“Our district is in a unique position in that we are used to receiving one of the largest portions of forest funds,” said Hogg. Most of the other Idaho school districts aren’t facing this challenge because the portion they receive is relatively small. However, the board has braced against this anticipated loss of revenue for many years now by striving to minimize the amount of forest fund money that is used for daily operation; this preserves the balance in the forest fund for future budget years and allows for a gradual change in programs or increasing other funding sources rather than stepping off a cliff.
Scheibe said he is thankful for the financial diligence of past administrations; however, maintaining quality programs and providing a balanced budget is “becoming very difficult,” he said.
“Some taxpayers have expressed that if the levy is raised it won’t pass,” Scheibe said. “That scares me. Our current programs rely upon the levy plus that $1.1 million in lost forest funds. How do we do that if patrons don’t understand the need for or support a higher levy?”
For example, per state requirements, MVSD must annually spend about $520,000 on Student Occupied Building maintenance. The local obligation for this is about $390,000, while the rest comes from state match and from state lottery funds (lottery funds are approximately $75,000 for MVSD each year).
“The district’s $390,000 obligation for this comes from forest funds, but if that’s not available, it must come from somewhere else,” Hogg said.
For the past five years, MVSD has passed a $2,663,246 supplemental levy. Last March, the levy passed with 52 percent of voters in favor. In 2016, that number was 50.5 percent, and in 2015, it was 58 percent. The levy has been kept at the same amount for five years only because state funding has increased and the district budget has been kept lean.
Hogg said the levy rate for MVSD, $3.16 per each thousand dollars of taxable market value, is considerably lower than most of the remainder of the region.
“Cost per thousand most everywhere else is higher,” she said. “If we were able to successfully levy at the average rate of our region, we’d be golden and the loss of forest fund revenue wouldn’t sting so much.”
Scheibe, Weddle and Hogg agree that MVSD 244 patrons have been used to receiving a certain package of goods, but because the forest funds have underwritten a portion of this purchase, they have not realized the actual price tag .
“The question becomes, are patrons willing to shoulder more of the cost for that same product, or will they choose an alternative package?”
Scheibe said the board and administration will continue to listen and map out the best route to take.
“We all know a healthy school system benefits the community,” Scheibe said. “I am hoping we can ask ‘what do we want in our schools’ rather than ‘what can we cut.’ But I know there will have to be changes, and we need the public’s help in prioritizing the programs that the district will offer and how they will be paid for.”
Scheibe invites the public to discuss the budget, offer suggestions and ask questions, at upcoming board meetings prior to the 2018 levy deadline.
The board will meet Mondays, Nov. 20, in Kooskia, and Dec. 18 in Grangeville, 5:30 p.m.