Nampa district proposes 14 furlough days

The Nampa School District could impose 14 furlough days in 2013-14, to eliminate most of a projected $3.5 million shortfall.

The furloughs would reduce the teacher contract days from 185 days to 171. Cuts to the classroom calendar wouldn’t be as severe — since some teacher in-service days would be made into furlough days — but some school days would be cut as well.

But since the 14 furlough days would save $2.6 million, the district will still need to make other cuts to balance the books. The options include requiring teachers to pick up 15 percent of their health insurance premiums, costing employees $562,000; and making life insurance and long- and short-term disability benefits into opt-in programs, saving the district close to $450,000.

The district presented its contract offer this morning during a negotiating session that was, by turns, cordial and tense.

“How does the board expect anyone to want to work in this district?” asked Harry McCarty, the Idaho Education Association’s regional director. “This is way beyond what anyone would fathom.”

Pete Koehler
Pete Koehler, interim Nampa superintendent

“This rips my guts,” said Pete Koehler, the Nampa High School principal who was named interim superintendent earlier this month. “I’ve been worrying about this since it blew up in my face 10 months ago, as a principal.”

The 14 furlough days are not out of line with cuts in Meridian and Twin Falls, said Amy White, an attorney representing the district’s negotiating team. While many other districts imposed furloughs in the wake of state budget cuts, Nampa did not  — and now, said White, the district has reached a point of no return.

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The Nampa district’s budget crisis stems from a series of accounting errors — funds that were overestimated or double-counted, and errors that were compounded from one budget year to the next. The district also misused $1.2 million in revenues for building bond issues to cover day-to-day expenses, leaving its bond fund in the hole.

And those past mistakes weighed on negotiators on both sides. Nampa Education Association President Mandy Simpson said teachers are now bearing the brunt for the School Board’s errors. Koehler said it is time to bring stability to the district’s budget.

“The board’s deepest desire is to bring closure to the mistakes that have been made in the past,” he said.

Union representatives caucused about the district’s proposal Friday, and said they would present their counteroffer at a bargaining session Tuesday night.

Under state law, districts must sign new teacher contracts by July 1, with or without a collective bargaining agreement in place. Districts would probably be able to impose their last best offer if no deal is in place by the deadline, according to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s staff.