Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SCHOOL BOARD: Levy Tops Priorities For School District

School Board Meeting January 10, 2011


Superintendent Tomlin began the discussion on the Supplemental Levy by explaining that while two years ago many school districts declared financial emergencies, Garden Valley School had their reserve funds, which disallowed the school from meeting that criteria. The old levy of $100K (since timed out) was used as incentive to pass the school bond.

Tomlin said the District worked very hard to not run a levy last year, by drawing on Federal Forest Funds, drawing down the reserve and implementing internal cuts. These involved changing to the 4-Day school week, imposing athletic and preschool fees and reducing benefits. The state of the budget is such that the school can no longer maintain their current programs without additional funds. The board was presented with two scenarios, one for a $300K levy and one for $200K.

With $50K in budget reductions, you can expect changes in perhaps ½ day kindergarten classes, a 1% or 2% cut in salaries, while still keeping music, art, phys ed and foreign languages. A $150K reduction would be more dire: It will not happen without staff reductions. Another possibility for saving money is to cut school days, as Garden Valley holds school more than the required days, with smaller classes.

Principal Bob Vian said, “Without a levy, we may as well close up the place.” Meanwhile, patrons urged the board to go easy on the taxpayers: “Be cautious, be smart, be transparent. Don’t shove it down our throats. It won’t work.”

Board Trustee Jeff Bass advised that the community must “expedite, put our differences behind us, this is for the young people”. A committee of teachers, board members and residents was formed to work out a strategy this week, culminating with a special meeting for the community on Monday, January 17, 6:00 p.m., at the school.

The board would like to receive applications from patrons interested in representing Zone III until the May elections. Please contact a board member or the school to get more information. The decision will be made at the next regular meeting, on February 7.

Dr. Tomlin announced that the District has switched propane service to AmeriGas, a savings from $2.40 to $1.65 per gallon. The full and part-time employee discount will be 10¢ per gallon. For fundraising, students and staff can turn in AmeriGas receipts from the community in October and get 2¢ per gallon up to $2,000.

The School Kids

Wrestling is in full swing. Lady Wolverine basketball team is doing well. Middle School girls start in a week. Get in touch with Athletic Director Bob Powell for info or get schedules at

Students have had a great first semester. Mr. Vian says some are struggling, so a response intervention team will meet with teachers and look at the kids’ particular needs to help them be successful. This is in response to the increasing number of students in Special Education.

The Booster Club wants to help improve the school’s athletic image, with equipment, uniforms and track and field lighting. They will meet with the PTO to avoid competition.

4-Day Week is moving along well. The school will be using the working Fridays for staff development—grading and meeting with students. This will help the teachers, who have a heavier workload now, with six classes and ten minutes between each to get ready.

Student Cody Zeff has been impressing everyone with his readings of the morning announcements and motivational comments.

Marla Egerton will be heading the Student Yearbook.

The GV School policy manual contains graduation requirements of 50 credits, but Mr. Vian, the “possibility principal”, requested that the board consider reducing it to the minimal State requirement of 46. This week, three new students have entered the school and he feels it puts some kids under a lot of pressure in these circumstances. He also would like the generic Health class requirement to be changed from 11th grade, to 9th-11th, to open windows for scheduling.

The Superintendent recommended the board attend the ISBA Day on the Hill. Cost is $77 per room and $95 for early bird registration. Trustee Dawn Smith questioned the cost and said, “We have to take some of these cut-backs as well.” Tomlin said the time spent with the Education Committee and legislators is very beneficial, not only for the board, but for the school as well: “The action we take on the school boards does not go unnoticed by the Legislature. They like to hear from you—you are closest to the people. We need to make sure this very rural voice is not drowned out by the larger districts.”

Community Forum:

Thelma Davis spoke out in favor of the school district and Superintendent Tomlin. “We’re all going to have to pull together. If we’re going to get a levy passed, we’re going to have to stop. The hurt is irreparable. Put up substantiated evidence, or shut up.”
Pat Marion was concerned about the discontinuation of the Portfolio Program and Senior Projects. “Is it funding or...?” Mr. Vian explained the staff decided the portfolio was time-consuming for the kids, it gets thumbed through and that’s it! Students will do mini-profiles and parents will be involved. The senior projects are required by the State.
Math teacher, John Haworth, emphasized that if the levy is passed, there will have to be staff cuts across the board, like combining the superintendent and principal positions. He then made a few tentative swipes at Dr. Tomlin, but was warned off by Trustee Alan Ward.
Mary Kay Jones suggested that after Dr. Tomlin checks out the policy updates, maybe he can put them online and the community could give input—thus saving the board some time.
Robert Earl made a plea for the trustees to make a quick acknowledgement that they have received a letter from a constituent. Letter-writing patrons applauded.
Christina Morgan announced she would not vote for the levy, because “our letter of no confidence was not addressed.”
Robert Earl scoffed at the “300 signatures, taken from people from all over the state, in front of local businesses, with a couple of pages of kids who could not spell their last name.” This caused a bit of a disruption in the room, with spits from both sides. Board Chair Terry Elmore objected and said it had in deed been addressed and was done with, then proceeded to Old Business.
Trustee Dawn Smith objected: “This is a difficult subject. Two people had their hands up and if we want these people to trust us and pass a levy, we should be transparent. We should let these people have their say and not end it when you get uncomfortable...this was just plain rude.”
Elmore said she wasn’t aware there were more hands and apologized.
June Palmer remarked, “If we’re trying to pass a levy, let’s go all across—you’ve got to listen to us.”
Christina Morgan said that she was not privy that action had been taken on the letter—“I struggle with distrust.” Attorney for the District, Amy White, said the matter is now closed.
Stacie Smith wanted to know if the letter of no confidence is public. The answer became garbled but it appears that it is not public.


Motion was approved to recognize the Garden Valley Education Association (GVEA) as the chosen rep for the teachers and to negotiate a Master Contract between them and the GVSD.


When the board reconvened after executive session, it was announced that they had tabled consideration of the Superintendent’s contract solely for budgetary reasons.

Garden Valley School District #71

In 2010: Our schools underwent their 6-year Accreditation Review. Many employees worked long and hard on this, and GVSD schools were completely reaccredited. The external evaluation team applauded the administration in their written findings for protecting the educational processes from the political turmoil in the community.

In 2010: We built the Biomass Boiler. This was a huge project, a $2.75 million federal grant. From the grant (ARRA) application to the commissioning ceremony, contracting for fuel, and working with the contract team through start-up and learning daily operations, your District worked to make this accomplishment a reality. The district also underwent an onsite federal audit of its handling of the ARRA funds and received high marks for exemplary financial accountability and stewardship.

In 2010: Similarly GVSD stood for its annual audit and again was given high marks, with special recognition to the business office operation and Manager.

In 2010: Another major district project was the bidding and contracting for bus service. This is done in five year cycles, and can be extended for five years. Hence, it had been 10 years since bus service contracting had been considered by the district. Much of the summer months were taken up overseeing the biomass construction, hiring a principal, and three teachers, and managing the myriad processes involved with bus bidding and contracting. All were done successfully.

In 2010: A plan was developed to replace the district’s nearly defunct residential carpentry program and replace it with Business Technology. This plan cost the District nothing, and resulted in a certificated business teacher, who was also assigned to IDLA classes. An outstanding teacher was hired to direct the new Business Technology Program, and already her efforts along with District support has resulted in approval of $6,800 of new money from the State Division of Professional Technical Education.

In 2010: The district researched, debated and adopted the 4-day school week. This was the year also the district administration moved quickly to accommodate and support NIMO and firefighting crews by preparing and opening the old campus and securing a contract that benefited the district and supported the fire fighters and their efforts.

In 2010: GVSD won multiple awards, including national recognition in U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s best schools; recognition by IHSSA as a select Idaho School of Excellence, and our most prestigious recognition as a School Match Award winner for “What Parents Want,” placing GVSD in the top 16% nationally of all schools, with a special recognition from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In 2010: The District hired an outstanding experienced and certificated Principal, Bob Vian, along with teachers Ronice Gilbertson, Susie Briggs, and Keelee Harrold.

In 2010: The GVSD High School graduation rate was 100%, with over $20,000 in scholarships awarded to our seniors.

In 2010: Your school district dodged a “snowball,” having negotiated its way out of the QZAB Bond plan in 2009, to fund the biomass boiler. Under that plan our first bond payment of $190,000 would have been due this year. The $2.75 million ARRA grant that was secured by District and U.S. Forest Service initiatives built the boiler with no payback from the district. Whew!

All of the above gives us pride to be Wolverines, and part of the Garden Valley School District. Many employees, parents, volunteers and others contributed to these successes and their efforts are recognized and appreciated. While undeniably there have been political distractions, your school district performed exceptionally well in 2010.

It is important to note that just two years ago the GVSD budget was approximately $2.5 million. Cutbacks at the state and federal levels have decreased our revenues to $2.0 million. We have frozen salaries, reduced expenditures in most programs and have spent much of our precious reserve protecting all instructional programs and activities. We can no longer maintain our current programs without additional funds, and thus will this year ask you as a community to pass a Supplemental Levy to further support your schools and the district. Thank you for your continued support.

State of the Budget ~ Necessitating a Levy for 2011-2012

Submitted to the Board
By Dr. Michael Tomlin, Superintendent, GVSD

It is important to note that just two years ago the GVSD budget was approximately $2.5 million. Cutbacks at the state and federal levels have decreased our revenues to $2.0 million. We have frozen salaries, reduced expenditures in most programs and have spent much of our precious reserve protecting all instructional programs and activities. We can no longer maintain our current programs without additional funds.

1. From the June 14, 2010 Budget Hearing, resulting in the budget set for 2010-2011, our cumulative deficit:

 $44,000: 09-10 state salary cuts/unfunded teacher raises.
 $68,000: 10-11 state salary cuts. All salaries frozen, benefits and other
expenses cut.
 $58,000: 09-11 reduced busing reimbursements.4-Day school week saves
$11,000, but the cost of fuel rises.
 $187,500: 08-11 General State reductions.
 $100,000: Old Levy timed out.
$457,500 = reduction to cover. We carry this each year until revenues
rise to meet it.

2. Strategies and assumptions adopted for 2010-11: Maintaining all programs and teachers.

 $100,000: Federal Forest Funds. Assume use to offset general fund expenses..
 $ 90,000: Internal cuts. 4 day, athletic fees, preschool fees, reduced benefits, etc.
 $300,000: Draw down reserve.

3. 2011-12 assumptions still needing $400K-450K to remain level

Scenario A Scenario B

$300,000 + Levy $200,000 + Levy
$100,000 + Federal Forest $100,000 + Federal Forest
$ 50,000 + Budget Reductions $150,000 + Budget Reductions
$450,000 Total $450,000 Total

4. Increased cost estimates (Assumes Homeowners Exemption)
 $175,000 home/prop value = $9.60/month @ $300K; $7.67/month @ $200K.
 $250,000 home/prop value = $16.17/month@ $300K; $13.00/month@ $200K.

For information about the District or meetings of the Board, please contact Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mike Tomlin, at 208-462-3756 X1012, or; or the Clerk of the Board, Paula Fox, at 208-462-3756 X1013, or Board contact information can be found at

Zone I Terry Elmore ~ Chair
Zone II Dawn Smith ~ Assistant Treasurer
Zone III vacant
Zone IV Jeff Bass ~ member
Zone V Alan Ward, Vice Chair & Treasurer


  1. Good report. I would like to see some numbers on how much the four day school week and the biomass actually saved us this first semester.

  2. By the way, just as a follow up on the 330 signers. Someone I know who has lived here for many more years than I have did review them, and stated that 1 14 year old and 1 16 year old signed the petition, and two signers left off the last letter of their name when they printed it - must have been in a hurry. They also did not recognize about 9 signers. I don't know that everybody knows everybody in this valley and Lowman.

    Even if you want to take the two teenagers out, and the unrecognized signers - doesn't mean they don't live here or own property here - well over 300 people who are of age and live here signed that petition.

  3. Because I support the school, I intend to vote for the levy requested by the Garden Valley School District. However, I feel the funding change year ago from property taxes to State Sales taxes was a sham. It has taken away some of the power of local control and support from school districts and given it to the State. As with federal funding, every time big government offers a “gift” they want something in return. Now we have the worst of both worlds, property taxes with state control of funding. Almost every school district in the state has had to ask their constituents to approve levy requests to maintain their programs, and levy campaigns are not cheap. Obviously the promise of State funding from Sales taxes proved inadequate to maintain programs, we homeowners are still on the hook to fund our schools.

  4. Rich, how right you are. I will also vote for the levy. The levy is needed. This is not the only school district in the state facing a budgetary shortfall. Whether or not you feel that funds were mismanaged, or could have been handled better, the school needs the additional funds. The school would have needed the additional funds no matter who hadn't left, no matter the additional costs for attorneys fees, and the many other items that I have seen and heard mentioned.

    Please don't let your feelings about one person or group of people be more important than the kids in our community.