School districts to benefit from state budget surplus

BLACKFOOT — Idaho's public schools will receive an additional $60 million in state funding and local school districts are hoping to use the funds to offset budget cuts and add cushion to slim budgets.
The funding is a result of increased tax receipts for fiscal year 2011. The state received $2.44 billion from all forms of tax receipts—sales, income and corporate—in the past 12 months. That was $85.3 million more than the most recent Division of Financial Management projection in January, and 7.95 percent ahead of total tax receipts in fiscal 2010.
The amount of money distributed to school districts in the state is based on Average Daily Attendance (student population) in each district. School districts in Bingham County will receive the following amounts:
Snake River—$389,962
Idaho Science & Technology Charter School—$36,256
Blackfoot Charter School—$ 34,570
All the additional public school funding can be used at the discretion of local trustees, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said.
Blackfoot School District Superintendent Scott Crane said the funds will be applied to the 2010-2011 fiscal year, and any carryover could be used to offset cuts made this year.
"We'll look at the things we've had to reduce," Crane said, adding that the district's priority will be the students. Some areas the funding may be used for include supplies, textbooks and building maintenance, but no plans have been made to spend the money, Crane said.
Snake River business manager Chris Nelson said, "It's going into the general fund. It will be there as working capital. The funds are not obligated."
Other Bingham County school districts are waiting for the money and any rules attached before discussing how to use the money.
"It will be better news when we have it deposited in our account," Shelley School District Business Manager Trish Dixon said.
Superintendent Sid Tubbs from Firth said they are waiting for guidelines attached to the funding, but said it will help offset reductions.
"It's really a nice thing," said Tubbs. "We'll put it to good use."
Otter said the unanticipated revenue is a good sign, but there is still a long way to go to grow the state's economy to pre-recession levels.
"I'm grateful for the revenue growth. But I still think that we're a long way from out of the woods," Otter said. "You need to remember that this is about half a billion dollars less than we had in my first year as governor. So we're going to keep working hard to grow our economy, and along with it our revenues."
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said the funding will help school districts offset budget reductions in the upcoming year.
“This is a great day for Idaho schools,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “I thank the Legislature and Gov. Otter for their fiscally responsible approach to budgeting and continued commitment that Idaho public schools will receive the first dollars available. Now, we are able to distribute $60 million in additional funds to our schools, which will more than cover the $47 million shortfall school districts were going to face in the upcoming year.”
Besides one-time money for education, the revenue will enable the next phased increase to the grocery tax credit for those who file Idaho income tax returns, said Gov. Otter. That will provide about $15 million in income tax relief for Idaho taxpayers.