March 2, 2009 in Idaho

CdA schools weigh options for budget cuts

By The Spokesman-Review

Coeur d’Alene students may see fewer teachers and principals in the halls next year, have to pay more to participate in after-school activities and go on fewer field trips.

Those are among a list of 18 recommendations made to the school board Monday night by a finance panel charged with shaving millions from the district’s operating budget for 2009-10.

“None of these are happy things,” said Superintendent Hazel Bauman.

The cuts, totaling more than $2 million, are just the beginning of what may be needed to fill a previously estimated $5 million budget hole for the North Idaho district. Like public school districts across the nation, Coeur d’Alene is bracing for an economic crisis, with statewide cuts to school programs estimated at more than $62 million.

On Monday, the board heard the recommendations of the finance panel charged with figuring out what that would mean for Coeur d’Alene students. On the list of things likely to be implemented:

•Reducing certified positions by 18.9 full-time equivalents.

•Reducing high school athletic directors from full-time to half-time positions.

•Reducing number of classified aides.

•Cutting principals and assistant principals in school buildings.

•Eliminating staff development.

•Eliminating some positions funded by the supplemental levy.

•Implementing fees for extracurricular activities.

•Reducing field trips.

Things that may need further study include implementing a four-day school week, selling property, creating a central purchasing system and studying the efficiency of the special education program. Also on the table are cuts to employee insurance benefits and sick and personal days, which will be discussed in contract negotiations starting today with the district’s union membership.

The board will make a decision on the recommended cuts at its next meeting, April 6.

State schools Superintendent Tom Luna announced last week that the federal stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama will not stave off looming budget cuts for Idaho’s public schools.

Luna’s proposal, announced Jan. 29, includes cuts to money for teachers, textbooks, building maintenance and administrators.

Though the stimulus will provide schools with $166 million in budget stabilization money over the next three years, and millions more for specific school programs, it won’t arrive to offset state funding. Instead, that money will be used to improve those specific programs.

In response to a board member’s question of just how any of that will help with the district’s budget, Bauman replied: “I wish I knew.”

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