Wednesday, October 1, 2014

District spends $16.5K per student annually

Expenditures are higher than state, national averages

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District spends almost $10,000 more per student each year than the average school district in Idaho. However, there is more money available in what is one of the wealthiest counties in the state.
    For taxing purposes, the Idaho State Department of Education lists the market value of properties within the district, which includes most of Blaine County, at $8.18 billion. In comparison, properties in the Pocatello School District are valued by the Education Department at $3.39 billion, in the Twin Falls School District at $2.7 billion and in the Idaho Falls School District at $2.86 billion.
    Property taxes remain the largest source of income for operation of the Blaine County School District, which for the 2014-2015 school year has an operations budget—officially called the “General M&O Fund”—of $55.6 million. With an official enrollment for the school year of 3,356 students, that computes to an expenditure per student of $16,568.
The most current comprehensive data from the U.S. Census Bureau for expenditures for students elsewhere is for 2012. That year, the Blaine County School District had an operations budget of $55.35 million and a student population of 3,358. That computes to a cost per student of $16,483.
In comparison, the average Idaho school district expenditure in 2012 was $6,659.
The difference in expenditures per student is less noticeable nationally. For example, school districts in the state of Connecticut in 2012 spent an average of $16,274 per student and school districts in Alaska spent $17,226. The national average that year was $10,608.
The Blaine County School District budgeted for $32.2 million in revenue this year from local property taxes, with the bulk of it coming from a $29.5 million “budget stabilization levy” authorized by the Legislature in 2006, the year legislation shifted the burden of funding education statewide from property tax to sales tax.
    The $32.2 million in property tax revenue does not include another $5.98 million that the district will receive this year from a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009. That funding is for capital improvements and is not included in the operations budget.
    The budget stabilization levy, which is permanent unless revoked by legislation, has allowed the School District to go relatively unscathed by cuts for several years in state funding.
    The extra $29.5 million has also allowed the district to offer numerous programs and benefits to students that are not typically available at school districts elsewhere in Idaho.
    For example, the funding has allowed the district to hire additional teachers, providing a teacher-to-student ratio of 1 to 17.6. The average statewide is 1 to 19.

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