Twin Falls School District Grapples With Budget Shortfall
The Twin Falls School District is freezing general fund spending through the rest of this school year due to an unexpected budget shortfall.
The state’s education funding formula is based on how many kids show up to class, and this month the district learned its attendance rate was lower than it projected last spring by about one to two percentage points.
"That was suprising to us because we try to be conservative in those predictions," said Superintendent Brady Dickinson.
Yesterday, principles told teachers and staff this means the school district received about $662,000 less from the state this year than it planned for.
“Those dollars are what pay for the programs that kids have in the district — everything from our classrooms to our activities programs to our fine arts," he said. "Because we have an attendance-based model, it’s important that attendance is as high as possible.”
The Twin Falls School District also underprojected the costs for classified employees like custodians and secretaries. Together with the attendance miscalculations, this leaves the district with an estimated $1.4 million shortfall.
"I'm a little freaked out," said Peggy Hoy, the president of the teachers union. "It's a lot of money." But, she went on to say the school district has been transparent. "I know we'll be able to work this out."
Dickinson said restricting general fund spending for things like classroom supplies through the end of the school year will help the district come out "on the plus side." The carryover fund — savings for unanticipated financial downturns — will make up the differences. Dickinson said the district has been trying to build up the fund since the 2008 recession, but it's still not at a level to cover the deficit entirely.
This spending freeze won't have an impact on students, Dickinson said.
“For the average student within the school, it's unlikely that they’ll even recognize that we’ve stopped general fund spending," Dickinson said, because many departments have already completed their purchases for this school year.
Going forward a budget committee will look at how to avoid this situation in the future. Hoy said she'll have more information to share with teachers after meeting with Dickinson later this week.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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