D91 sets budget hearing, pact OK’d for upcoming school year

Idaho Falls School District 91 will hold a public hearing Tuesday on its proposed budget for the upcoming school year.

The 6:30 p.m. hearing will be held at the district offices, 690 John Adams Parkway. The board is expected to take action at the meeting, District 91 spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne said.

This year marks the first time in years that its budget has been balanced, district officials said.

Last year, officials made about $4 million in cuts in order to balance the budget as a result of reduced state and federal funding, rising benefit costs and depleted savings accounts.

This year’s budget is looking up.

“At this point, based on what we’re projecting, we should not be spending out of our contingency reserves,” Director of Finance Carrie Smithsaid. “Part of that is because we did make those reductions to try and get our budget more in line with what we were seeing in state revenue, and then there was an increase (this year) in state revenue. So, I think it was a combination of those two things.”

The proposed $58.6 million budget includes salaries and benefits, setting aside a 6.3 percent contingency fund, as well as other operating expenses, according to a district news release. The budget also factors in a 5 percent increase in insurance costs for next year, as well as an additional $50,000 for fuel costs and increases in other day-to-day expenses, the release said.

Things also are looking a little brighter next year for teachers.

Last week, the school board and Idaho Falls Education Association ratified a new teacher’s contract agreement for the upcoming school year.

The contract includes a 1.07 increase for teachers in the form of a professional development stipend, as well as slightly reduced health insurance premiums and a one-time $150 payment for full-time teachers in December.

“The fact that we had some additional money from the state allowed us the latitude to do that,” Smith said. “Our staff is great and so it was nice to be able to do a little something for them.”

Idaho Falls Education Association President Angela Gillman said members feel the contract is an improvement from past years, but still hope to go further.

“We feel it’s the best package the district could offer,” she said. “We commend the district to be able to give us some money for teachers … but the increase some people will get doesn’t help with the cost-of-living — it doesn’t meet that increase, so that’s very frustrating.

“We still have a long ways to go to get back to 2009 levels when the deep cuts first hit. It’s hard to retain teachers when they’re just not able to make ends meet. I still talk to teachers one-on-one not being able to pay their bills … they are incredible teachers and we need to be able to find a way to keep them in the system.”