Here is a draft of our Friday editorial:
The Nampa School District’s accounting needs work. The same can be said for the district’s sense of timing.
Earlier this month, the district found a $2.8 million shortfall, representing 4.2 percent of this year’s budget. The news broke at perhaps the worst possible time: days before the new school year, and two weeks before voters decide the fate of a two-year, $3.2 million supplemental property tax levy.
Tuesday’s election will decide the fate of the levy. For district administrators, the election will represent a vote of confidence — or no confidence. Undoubtedly, some voters will want to punish the district for flunking a math test, to the sizeable sum of $2.8 million.
We’d urge voters to think things through. And to vote yes.
Passing this levy will keep a bad budget situation from getting worse. Rejecting this levy will leave the district with less money for supplies and maintenance — to the detriment, ultimately, of students and their learning experience.
Yes, the district’s accounting errors were significant, and there is no sugar-coating their magnitude. Particularly troubling is the fact that the shortfall resulted from several different errors: some revenue was counted twice; revenue from another source was overestimated, again by a factor of two; salary revenue was miscalculated. The district says the problems were the result of a shorthanded staff and human error. Those are explanations, but they aren’t excuses. Michelle Yankovich, the district’s newly hired finance officer, has her work cut out for her.
But the errors have been found and corrective measures made. No layoffs are planned, but 39 positions will go unfilled, some teachers will be reassigned, and budgets for transportation, supplies and substitute teachers will be cut.
Which dovetails to Tuesday’s levy, which needs a simple majority to pass. Some money would go for supplies — a budget facing cuts because of the newly discovered shortfall. The rest would go into textbooks and technology, and building repairs and maintenance, preventing further cuts in these areas.
To its credit, the district scaled back its plans since March, when voters rejected a two-year, $7.16 million levy. Tuesday’s proposal would renew the existing tax levy, and would not increase taxes. This strikes a fair balance, reinvesting in school infrastructure without burdening taxpayers.
Nothing that happens Tuesday will undo past errors, or erase Nampa’s school shortfall. Voters can only look toward the future. In that light, the levy deserves a strong, forward-thinking show of support.
Disclosure: The mother of Jessica Flynn, a community representative on the Statesman editorial board, is a principal at a Nampa elementary school.