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For the week of June 18 - 24, 2003

News

School board approves annual budget


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District Board of Trustees approved the annual school budget, Tuesday, June 10, at the monthly school board meeting.

The General Maintenance and Operating Fund for the school year 2003-2004 comes to $33,388,431.

The money comes from two basic sources: state income and sales tax revenues and local property taxes.

The general fund accounts for 80 percent of the operating budget. It includes teacher salaries, fringe benefits such as retirement, social security, life and health insurance and workmanís compensation. The general fund also covers purchased services, capital outlay, supplies and materials, insurance, and basic education of the student population.

The beginning budget for the coming school year 2003-2004 is $17,724,111 compared to a beginning budget from last year of $2,968,607. This yearís beginning budget is higher due to the sale of $24 million of Certificates of Participation.

"We sold over $24 million in certificates to finance the building projects of the high school, middle school expansion, Carey High School remodel and Woodside Elementary," Chatterton said.

Certificates of Participation programs assist school districts in their efforts to raise funds for property acquisitions and capital improvements. The COP program allows districts to finance capital projects without voter approval.

Taxpayers will not see higher assessments this year as notices went out last week based on market value in the fall of 2002. However, once the levyógeneral fundóis approved by the board it cannot be changed.

"We set the dollar amount and the State Tax Commission sets the levy rate based on Septemberís market value. Once the dollar amount is set, whatever happens to the market value does not affect the levy until next year. There will be no additional money levied later. It may affect it in 2004," Chatterton said.

The Supplemental Levy is an override levy that in previous years had to be approved annually by voters. Itís now a permanent levy that was approved in 1995. It can be reduced by the board at any time, but cannot be increased without a vote by the public. Currently the levy is set at $2.6 million.

"If we ever had a cash short fall thatís were we would have to go," Chatterton said. "But we havenít needed it for eight years. We wonít need it next year, but who knows after that."

Meanwhile, Superintendent Jim Lewis has been fielding rumors about extra staff positions being held other than the ones previously cited.

"We are still holding one position for third grade at Hailey Elementary to see if there are any imbalances at the beginning of the school year," he said. "Other than that, we held two positions at the middle school, one third-grade position at Hemingway (Elementary), and one second-grade position at Hailey (Elementary). We filled three positions at the high school to accommodate for the 70 new students that will be entering in the fall."

However, one open position was offered consecutively to five people from out of the area. Each contract was returned unsigned with the comment, "We cannot afford to live in your community," Lewis reported.

Aspen, Colo., by comparison, has 28 public housing units for teachers, while Blaine County has none. Nonetheless, there is a 2 percent salary increase scheduled this year and a 3 percent increase scheduled for 2004-05. Next yearís starting salary for 2003-2004 is $32,152.

Idaho Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, attended the school board meeting last week and noted that she doesnít "see things getting better for schools next year." The Republican-led Legislature passed a new state budget in April in which school funding was severely limited.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.