First day of kindergarten

Students in Tammy Petersen’s afternoon kindergarten class point to their table number on the first day of school in August 2017 at Sawtooth Elementary School in Twin Falls.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

TWIN FALLS — Last year was a “perfect storm year” for the Twin Falls School District’s budget, its fiscal affairs director said Monday night.

During a school board meeting, Bob Seaman went over a 2016-17 Idaho Financial Accounting Reporting Management System report, which has to be filed with Idaho State Department of Education each year. School trustees unanimously approved the document.

Seaman cited a few factors behind the challenges: hiring additional teachers to staff three new schools, starting the year with an overestimate of enrollment and attendance, operational cost overages throughout the year, and between $600,000 and $700,000 in federal Medicaid funding cuts to pay for special education services for students.

Next year, the school district will need to take a hard look at job positions, programs and allocations, Seaman told the school board.

“We’re not doing that this year,” he said. “We’ll get through another year and address those issues.”

“That will hopefully work out as our student population increases,” board chairman Bernie Jansen said.

The IFARMS report shows about $118.6 million in revenues and expenditures, about $4 million less than originally budgeted. Expenditures include salaries, benefits, purchased services, supplies and materials, capital objects, debt retirement, and insurance and judgments.

A bright spot: “We show a fairly large increase in fund balance,” Seaman said, from $14.7 million originally budgeted to $20.9 million.

But the school district isn’t in as good of shape as represented by the report, he said. “Sometimes, appearances can be a little deceiving.”

Due to opening Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementary schools in August 2016 and South Hills Middle School this August, the district had to hire additional teachers and staff. Now, it has 10 more teachers than what the state pays for, but school district officials say it’s not unexpected.

For operational overages throughout the year, that included the district being left to pick up the cost of unpaid school lunches out of the general fund, Seaman said.

And the reimbursement the school district receives from the federal government, he said, to cover the cost of meals is marginal.

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Seaman told the board at the end of his presentation: “I may have sounded doom and gloom, but that’s not the case.” There are budget challenges, he said, and it will be tight this year and next year, but it’s doable.

During their meeting, trustees also:

Heard a report about proposed resolutions for the Idaho School Boards Association conference Nov. 8-10 in Coeur d’Alene. School trustees decided on which ones they wanted to support. There were 17 in total, but three have been pulled. Several of the proposals come from Magic Valley school boards: looking into amending Idaho Code to allow an education allocation for out-of-state teachers (Kimberly and Jerome), looking into amending Idaho Code to set a fixed rate for transportation reimbursements (Cassia County) and consider developing an incentive plan to encourage Idaho students to pursue teaching (Buhl). The Kimberly, Jerome and Cassia County received a “do pass” recommendation from ISBA’s executive board, but Buhl’s proposal received a “do not pass” recommendation. Two other local proposals – one from Cassia County and one from Minidoka County – were pulled.

Recognized employees of the month from Bickel Elementary School: instructional coach Cara Joslin and tray washer Florence ‘’Toots” Fiscus.

Approved policy revisions.

Approved school board tasks for this school year under the district’s 2015-2020 strategic plan.

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