Hals: LPOSD on solid financial footing

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PONDERAY — Lake Pend Oreille School District administrators received an update on the district’s financial situation from Lisa Hals, chief financial officer, at the March 8 meeting.

The first area Hals covered detailed the district’s strong financial position as of June 30, 2021, which was the end of the fiscal year.

The second part was dedicated to revenue projections for fiscal year 2023 which Hals said would “highlight what was currently known, taking into account that the legislature is still in session working on funding legislation for the fiscal year 2023.” ‘education”.

Hals said she would report her department’s recommendations on FY23 spending at the April meeting and that, with revisions, the budget would be passed at the June meeting as required by law.

And, the third subject was a multi-year general forecast on the financial future of the district.

“I don’t normally do this, and it’s going to be high profile, but with the infusion of federal COVID relief money at the state level, then directly into a school district across the country, and then it went confounded with potential real changes to funding formulas for fiscal year 2023, I think this is especially important for new board members,” Hals said.

The school district currently has a budget of approximately $46 million. In the information packet she provided, the factors affecting the future of the district, as described on the “Management Discussion and Analysis” page of the summary, indicate that the adoption by the district of the indefinite supplementary tax “provides significant stability to our district’s overall funding.” The public can find this financial information on the LPOSD website.

The summary also said federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary Schools Relief Fund) funding was critical to the district’s future financial condition. “They are not only essential to the formulation of the FY22 budget, but also future budgets. These one-time federal funding programs ESSER platform or even budget structure until September 30, 2024.”

Hals said the projection that schooling, which had declined during the pandemic, would rebound has been realized. “Student enrollment rebounded from its precipitous drop last year, an increase of 392 students,” she said.

Among the challenges facing the Finance Department’s projected revenue is how the state will determine funding. During the pandemic, the state moved from a formula based on average attendance to one based on enrollment. This change was temporary.

The analysis states, “Now districts in the state, even those with normal attendance numbers, are concerned (including the LPOSD) about the return to attendance-based funding in Idaho. Therefore, reverting to enrollment-based numbers to ease the pressure of weighing funding needs against student health needs during a contagious pandemic (with high absenteeism) seems prudent.

Overall, Hals described the Lake Pend Oreille School District’s financial situation as strong. She said ESSER funds have allowed the district to build reserves without implementing mandatory practices. She said her projection estimates that the amount of levy funds will be sustainable at least until 2027.

Superintendent Tom Albertson said he wanted to provide some clarification for the community. The first was to point out that there was no federal mandate in place to receive federal funds. The second concerned the additional levy:

“I think Lisa got the message that we want the public to understand is that we don’t want to go back to voters for a property tax hike for as many tax cycles as possible. And that’s important to me because that’s the statement I made when I went to a lot of the community and different organizations when we were proposing to the community to make this (levy) permanent,” said Albertson.

“People can say, ‘well you have a lot of money and you could do this and that’, but that’s not the idea. We acknowledge the support we get from the community and we appreciate the support of the community. And, we will try as much as possible not to go back and ask for more.

A video of the school board meeting, along with the financial reports are available on the LPOSD website. The next school board meeting will be Tuesday, March 22 at 5 p.m. at the Ponderay Events Center.

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