District 91 board approves $58.6 million budget

Things are looking brighter for Idaho Falls School District 91 because of a roughly $2.4 million state funding increase for the new fiscal year.

The increase was included in the district’s budget for next year approved unanimously Tuesday by the school board. The budget hearing was lightly attended.

Officials said that slight restoration in state funding puts the district in a good financial position: For the first time in years, it won’t be drawing money from its reserves to cover expenses.

“I think state funding is being restored,” board chairman Lisa Burtenshaw said. “Financially, we’ve made some difficult cuts over the last few years so it’s nice that we have a balanced budget and it’s nice to be adding back, though small, some compensation for our teachers. We’re glad we’re not making cuts this year and we’re optimistic to see increases over the next foreseeable future.”

The budget is $58.6 million, which includes salaries and benefits, a 6.3 percent contingency fund and other operating expenses.

The state revenue boost will mean a 1.07 percent increase for teachers in the form of a professional development stipend — a one-time, $150 payment for full-time teachers in December. It will also go toward steps and lanes, which are parts of a teacher salary schedule. (Steps refer to how many years a teacher has been teaching and lanes refer to how much education a teacher has completed.)

Increased state revenue also will help cover increased insurance costs, said Carrie Smith, District 91 director of finance.

Also included in the new budget are plans to hire three new certified staff members to accommodate increased enrollment. Those positions will include one elementary teacher and two secondary teachers.

Since 2009, District 91 has made more than $8 million in cuts, Smith said. The previous fiscal year alone, it cut more than $4 million to balance its budget.

“The cuts that our staff and patrons helped us with … have put us in a much more solid financial situation,” Smith said. “And with additional state funding, the prospects look much brighter for the future than they have in the past few years.”

Reporter Kirsten Johnson can be reached at 542-6757.