The Nampa School District shocked its board and city residents Tuesday when it announced a budget shortfall of $2.8 million. Because of accounting errors, Nampa superintendent Gary Larson told his audience, the district spent money it didn’t have.
The shortfall is in last year's budget, and it's coming to light at an unfortunate time: just as the district finishes making cuts to fill a budget gap for the year ahead.
Larson says the district's finance team caught the problem a little more than a week ago and alerted the deputy superintendent.
“He came to me and said 'Gary, we have a problem' and then he outlined it,” Larson says. “That’s how it happened. What it felt like was getting knocked between the eyes. I was stunned and embarrassed. And I went to our education officers, our district people, our principals and laid out the problem.”
Larson says the mistake occurred because the finance office is understaffed. He says a few years ago, when the state began to cut district budgets, he decided to leave administration positions unfilled.
“At the time it was a signal that we are in this together, the district office and the schools. Well, as a result it impacted our finance department and I think we got too thin, and because we were thin I think we made these human errors,” Larson says.
The $2.8 million will be made up largely through leaving more positions unfilled. The district will also cut budgets for supplies, transportation and substitute teaching. But Larson says they won’t have lay-offs or furlough any teachers.
The district is asking voters to approve a $1.6 million dollar levy in two weeks. That money is already earmarked for other things like curriculum improvements and would not fill the new $2.8 million gap.