Idaho Press: Ybarra budget request contained a $100 million error

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s department made a $100 million error in a 2019-20 budget request released this week, Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press reported Thursday.

Originally, Ybarra said she would seek an additional $28.7 million to fold into teacher salaries in 2019-20 — saying the money would cover a $40,000 minimum salary and a $58,000 maximum salary.

On Wednesday, Ybarra abruptly issued a news release walking back the plan. She said the $28.7 million would cover a minimum salary of $37,200 and a maximum of $52,000.

That $28.7 million would still build on the fifth and final year of the “career ladder,” Idaho’s plan to boost teacher salaries. Without the $28.7 million funding boost, the career ladder would bankroll salaries of $37,000 to $50,000.

What would it have cost to bankroll Ybarra’s original plan — and salaries of $40,000 to $58,000?

That would have come to $128 million, not $28.7 million, Russell reported.

Ybarra’s Wednesday news release did not reveal the magnitude of the error.

But it did explain the reason for the error.

According to the release, longtime State Department of Education budget expert Tim Hill had underestimated the cost of Ybarra’s original plan. Paul Headlee, a budget analyst with the Legislative Services Office, flagged the error Wednesday morning.

“I appreciate Tim letting me know immediately so we could accurately reflect the pay raise I’m proposing,” Ybarra said in the news release. “I’m still excited to bring forward a proposal to do more than the career ladder, but I’m disappointed the $28.7 million won’t stretch as far as we had thought.”


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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