K-12 budget increase drops to 5.4 percent


The spending increase in Tom Luna’s proposed public school budget is dropping from 5.9 percent to 5.4 percent, thanks to a change in state benefit calculations.

Tom Luna

Tom Luna

The benefits change will shave more than $7 million from Luna’s budget request. His plan originally called for a $77 million increase in K-12 spending next year. It now drops to $69.9 million in new funding.

A handful of lawmakers and state officials previously expressed “sticker shock” at the originally proposed FY 2015 budget and called the spending increase “a stretch.”

Meanwhile, several school administrators said the original budget proposal did not go far enough or make a big enough dent in restoring Great Recession-era budget cuts.

A statewide discussion of next year’s school budget began back on Oct. 1, when Luna submitted his original FY2015 proposed budget.

What’s changed in retirement benefits?

Luna’s original FY2015 budget took into account a scheduled 1.5 percent contribution rate increase to the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho program. Earlier this month, the retirement program’s board of directors decided to hold off on the increase for one year.

Under Idaho law, all Idaho schools are required to participate in PERSI, and teachers who work half time or better must contribute to the plan.

That PERSI adjustment decreased the state-paid employee benefits section of the public schools budget by nearly $7.2 million, said Tim Hill, the State Department of Education’s Deputy Superintendent for Public School Finance.

With the benefits change factored in, the increase in public school funding for next year is now targeted at $69.9 million, down from just more than $77 million.

PERSI spokesman Kelly Cross told Idaho Education News the retirement program’s board delayed the contribution rate increase because PERSI was enjoying a strong earnings performance and favorable funded ratio.

“They postponed it, and it is now scheduled to go in effect the following July unless the board does something else,” Cross said.

Aside from benefits change, the only other change to the FY2015 budget was adding an additional $50,000 into the miscellaneous revenue category under the state dedicated revenue heading.

No other changes were made.

Highlights of the revised FY15 budget proposal include:

  • Spending $42 million to begin phasing in a career ladder teacher pay plan, as recommended by Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.
  • Directing $16.5 million to begin a five year process of restoring $82.5 million in recession-era cuts to operational funding.
  • Providing $12.2 million in ongoing funding for professional development; including allowing districts to share $8 million of that money to buy professional development days.
  • Adding $5 million to a dual credit program for high school students, under which the state would pay up to 75 percent of the cost of dual credit courses.

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