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CdA voters face decision on replacement school levy

Mon., April 20, 2009

Measure would pay for ‘co-curricular’ programs, technology, more

New math books, field trips and some teachers are among cuts planned in the Coeur d’Alene School District.

And that’s if the district’s replacement levy is passed by voters this Tuesday. More cuts are likely if the levy fails.

“I am cautiously optimistic that it will pass, but I will not rest easy until all the votes are counted,” district Superintendent Hazel Bauman said.

The supplemental levy would generate $1 million less than the soon-to-expire 2007 levy it would replace, officials said. The district is asking voters to approve a $7.8 million-a-year levy for the next two years. The cost to homeowners would be about 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. A simple majority is needed to approve or reject the levy.

According to the school district’s Web site, the levy funds would be used to:

•Fill the gap between state funding and the district’s costs.

•Support “co-curricular” programs, such as music, debate and athletics.

•Upgrade hardware and technology.

•Continue to provide some remedial programs for academically at-risk students.

•Support programs for academically advanced students in grades 3 to 12.

•Help keep support staff, such as nursing aides, classroom assistants and maintenance workers.

Opponents of the levy criticize the district’s use of funds for programs for advanced students – those in International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement classes – rather than focusing on basic education programs. But there’s also been support for the levy. Melanie Chun, a Coeur d’Alene mother with two children in the schools, plans to vote for it.

“I feel like if you support the community, then one way to do that is to support the school,” she said. “It’s especially important due to the fact that there will be cuts made throughout the district.”

The district, which receives about $60 million from Idaho’s general fund, faces a $5 million shortfall because it’s in the same situation as most school districts nationwide: States are being forced to trim budgets and school enrollment is declining.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” Bauman said.

Nineteen teaching positions will be cut out of 530 teachers districtwide, some of which will come from resignations and retirements, Bauman said.

There will be a reduction in support staff, such as classroom assistants, nursing aides and custodial staff, although those numbers aren’t firm.

About $750,000 will be saved by not buying new math books, Bauman said.

Reductions are planned in the advanced learning and remedial programs, but those programs won’t be eliminated.

Also planned: a travel moratorium; no professional development for staff; and athletic teams won’t attend invitational tournaments, which will cut down significantly on travel expenses, Bauman said.

Officials continue to work on other specific cuts, she said.

With the state budget cuts, officials say the levy is critical to keep programs alive.

Without the levy, Bauman fears the cuts would be deeper.

“I’m feeling very good,” Bauman said. “The outpouring of support has been encouraging.”

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