Guest opinion

The Mountain View School District Board of Trustees (the Board), has been approached by several members of our community asking questions about misleading information that is being circulated through our district by the Central Idaho Education Association (CIEA), the teacher’s union. The Board has great respect for the dedicated teachers of our district; however, the union is requesting salary increases that are not sustainable. To help clarify the Board’s position, I would like to address three points: sources of funding, state pay schedules and the need for local levy.

1) School district funding comes in two forms; hard and soft money. The state is required, by the state constitution, to fund public education. Hard money is money allocated from the state to fund local districts. Even though the amount may vary from year to year, this funding is consistent and reliable. It is the funding source on which the district can build an annual budget. This hard money is designated, by the state, for the M & O (Maintenance and Operation): staff wages, heating and electricity, books and other operating expenses.

Any other revenue available to our district comes in the form of soft money. This is not guaranteed as a permanent source of funding. Examples of soft money currently include federal SRS Funds (Forest Funds) and the local override levy. SRS money is very unpredictable and sporadic. The main purpose of these funds, as set by Idaho code, is for purchasing and maintaining school properties. In the past, the Board chose to use part of these funds to subsidize the M&O budget. This year, the board of trustees felt it unwise to continue this practice and has voted to set the remaining funds aside for the intended purposes of building repair and upkeep.

The other source of soft money is our local override levy. Since state funding has been insufficient to maintain the level of education that our community has said they want for our children, the district has had to rely on this source of soft money.

The levy must be renewed yearly, by a majority vote of our district patrons. The district cannot, nor would it be financially prudent to, maintain a sustainable multi-year budget based on soft money. Long-term, permanent, commitments to our teachers, for wages and benefits, cannot be based on this uncertain, one-time money.

2) The pay schedule, now used by the state to determine how local districts are reimbursed for teacher wages, was implemented in 2015. The following year, our district and the CIEA mutually agreed to move from the previously used salary structure to the current state pay schedule. This allows the district to pay teacher salaries using the same formula by which the state pays the district. The current impasse, between the district and the union, is because the union no longer wants to use the prescribed state formula. The pay schedule the union proposed this year, would cost an additional $480,000 annually. This increase would not be funded by the state; it would need to be funded by an increase to the local levy.

Additionally, it has been incorrectly stated that district teachers are working without a contract. This is not true. Each teacher received, and signed a contract with the district, prior to beginning this school year. It is true, however, that the union does not currently have a collective bargaining agreement with MVSD 244.

3) The underlying problem with school funding is that the state has failed to fully fund public education. In Idaho County, we are at a greater disadvantage than most other districts because only 15 percent of the total property in the county is privately owned and taxable. For several years, the board of trustees has asked district patrons to support an override levy, because of the funding shortfall from the state. Until the state rectifies this problem, a local levy will continue to be necessary.

Our community should be commended for its willingness to step up and fund the education of our children. As your elected trustees, we feel a great responsibility to be wise and prudent stewards of the resources entrusted to us. It is increasingly difficult to find balance in satisfying the financial needs of the district. We, the Board, are committed to maintaining a solvent and sustainable budget, which will provide a secure future for our teachers and students.

MVSD244 board members may be contacted via e-mail. Address available at the district website; under the “District” link.

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