March 9: A $298 Million SCHOOL TAX Election Day
By Kevin Richert, IdahoEdNews.org
Voters in more than a third of Idaho’s school districts have decisions on March 9: Do they want to approve or renew bond issues or property tax levies for schools?
All told, 45 of Idaho’s 115 school districts will run ballot measures totaling more than $298.2 million. (One year ago, when the March election coincided with presidential primaries, 41 districts sought $174 million in levies.)
So while the March 9 elections are no record-setter — in March 2017, voters decided on a whopping $715 million in bonds and levies — it’s nonetheless a big day for school districts looking to bankroll building projects or put money into teacher pay or day-to-day operations during a pandemic.
Here’s the statewide rundown:
Bonneville: Ten-year, $38 million plant facilities levy; two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levies.
Both proposals represent an increase. The current plant facilities levy is worth $2.8 million per year; in 2018, voters approved a two-year levy worth $5.8 million a year.
On Wednesday, Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme explained the two increases.
He said the increased plant facilities levy would help the growing district with upkeep. Since passing its 2011 plant facilities levy, Bonneville has added 400,000 square feet of new school buildings and 125 acres of property.
The increased supplemental levy would help absorb the costs of opening a new middle school in 2021-22. It would also replace an emergency levy the district has collected annually, to cover costs from enrollment increases. Districts can collect emergency levies without voter approval, but Woolstenhulme told Idaho Education News that Bonneville officials “no longer plan to include the emergency levy in our budget planning.”
In a recent interview with East Idaho News, Woolstenhulme also said the supplemental levy would help Bonneville offer competitive wages, especially to classified staff.
Bonneville’s plant facilities levy needs a 60 percent majority to pass. All supplemental levies require only a simple majority to pass.
Coeur d’Alene: Two-year, $40 million supplemental levy. The North Idaho school district seeks renewal of the state’s largest supplemental levy, which makes up about one fourth of its annual budget. Coeur d’Alene says it uses levy dollars for a laundry list of purposes, such as recruiting and retaining teachers, hiring school resource officers and upgrading classroom technology.
Like many levies on the March 9 ballot, the proposal is an extension of an existing property tax; Coeur d’Alene voters first approved a $20 million-a-year levy in 2019.
McCall-Donnelly: $33.2 million bond issue. The district would use the money for expansions at Donnelly Elementary School and its Payette Lakes Middle School, which exceeds capacity. The district also wants to address traffic flow problems at Payette Lakes and Barbara Morgan Elementary School. The new projects would cost $22.5 million, but the $33.2 million bond issue would include refinancing of existing debt.
Bond issues require a two-thirds majority to pass.
Blackfoot: $23.9 million bond issue; two-year, $4 million supplemental levy.
If the bond issue passes, the East Idaho district plans to convert the existing I.T. Stoddard Elementary School into a career-technical high school, and build a new elementary school. (Click here for a full project list.)
The levy reflects a reduction. In 2019, voters said yes to a two-year, $4.55 million measure.
Lakeland: Two-year, $19.04 million supplemental levy. Accounting for about 30 percent of the budget, the North Idaho district uses levy proceeds on everything from armed guards to all-day kindergarten and extracurricular activities.
This levy would represent an increase. In 2019, Lakeland voters approved a two-year, $17.98 million levy.
Pocatello-Chubbuck: Two-year, $18.5 million supplemental levy. District officials say levy dollars would go toward a list of needs, including teacher recruitment, school safety and “unknowns associated with the pandemic’s financial impact on local education.” This levy has been in place for the past six years.
Idaho Falls: Two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place since 2003-04.
Twin Falls: Two-year, $11.4 million supplemental levy. The district uses levy dollars primarily for staffing. The proposal is an increase from Twin Falls’ existing $5 million-a-year levy.
Fremont County: Ten-year, $7 million plant facilities levy; two-year, $3 million supplemental levy. The plant facilities levy requires a 55 percent majority, and it’s a replacement. Fremont County can now levy up to $828,000 a year for facilities, but has been collecting $300,000 a year.
The district’s supplemental levy has been on the books for eight years, and goes towards staff salaries, classroom technology, musical instruments and other items.
Post Falls: Two-year, $9.91 million supplemental levy. The North Idaho district hopes to focus levy dollars on curriculum and technology. This identical levy has been in place for four years.
Emmett: Ten-year, $6.17 million plant facilities levy; two-year, $2 million supplemental levy. The plant facilities levy will require a 55 percent majority to pass.
The plant facilities levy would be new, and Emmett says it could use the money for several building projects, such as bathroom renovations, parking lot repair or land purchases for future school sites. But while pushing for a plant facilities levy, Emmett is seeking a scaled-back supplemental levy; in 2019, voters approved a $1.5 million-a-year levy.
Shelley: $7.5 million bond issue. The district hopes to renovate Goodsell Elementary School, for kindergarten classrooms and a special services center; install a new HVAC system at Hobbs Middle School; and install camera systems and electronic doors. District officials say they are seeking a bond issue in lieu of a plant facilities levy, which is expiring.
West Bonner County: Two-year, $6.87 million supplemental levy. An increase from the district’s existing $3 million-a-year levy.
American Falls: Two-year, $5.5 million supplemental levy. A renewal of an existing levy, last approved in 2019.
Kuna: Two-year, $5 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for four years.
Boundary County: Two-year, $4.8 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for six years.
St. Maries: Two-year, $4.15 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for six years.
Potlatch: One-year, $1.65 million supplemental levy. A decrease from an existing $1.75 million levy.
Kendrick: Two-year, $1.62 million supplemental levy. An extension of an existing levy last approved in 2020.
Kootenai: Two-year, $1.45 million supplemental levy. A slight decrease from the existing $750,000-a-year levy.
Cascade: Two-year, $1.3 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for two years.
Bear Lake: Two-year, $1.3 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for two years.
Gooding: Two-year, $1.3 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for four years.
Challis: Two-year, $1.2 million supplemental levy. An increase from the current $400,000-a-year levy.
Troy: One-year, $995,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for five years.
Genesee: One-year, $985,000 supplemental levy. An increase from the $935,000 levy voters approved in 2020.
Parma: Two-year, $800,000 supplemental levy. A decrease from the district’s current $450,000-a-year levy.
Payette: Two-year, $800,000 supplemental levy. A renewal of an existing levy, last passed in August 2018.
West Jefferson: Two-year, $720,000 supplemental levy. An increase from the district’s existing $300,000-a-year levy, passed in 2018.
Soda Springs: One-year, $698,000 supplemental levy. An extension of a levy last approved a year ago.
Bruneau-Grand View: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy. A reduction from the two-year, $800,000 levy voters approved in 2019.
Horseshoe Bend: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for eight years.
Camas County: Two-year, $500,000 supplemental levy; two-year, $100,000 supplemental levy to continue a program in fine arts and music. Camas County has collected $300,000 a year in supplemental levies since 2016-17.
Hansen: Two-year, $580,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for six years.
Ririe: Two-year, $580,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for two years.
Butte County: Two-year, $320,000 supplemental levy; two-year, $206,000 plant facilities levy. The district’s supplemental levy has been in place for a decade.
Clark County: Two-year, $500,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for six years.
Highland: One-year, $499,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for eight years.
Grace: Two separate one-year supplemental levies: one for $300,000, the other for $150,000. The district has collected a $300,000-a-year levy for the past nine years.
Rockland: Two-year, $420,000 supplemental levy. Voters approved a one-year, $210,000 levy in 2020.
Sugar-Salem: Two-year, $400,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for four years.
Hagerman: Two-year, $300,000 supplemental levy. A reduction from the two-year, $400,000 levy voters approved in 2019.
Swan Valley: Two-year, $120,000 plant facilities levy. The district has run four such levies since 2019, all without success. Last spring, a levy received 52 percent support, falling shy of the required 55 percent supermajority threshold.
West Side: One-year, $90,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for nine years.
Marsing: Voters in this district will decide on a 10-year levy to continue funding for the Canyon Owyhee School Service Agency, a cooperative that provides educational programs to five rural school districts.
Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.
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Go back to the chalkboard…enough of this levy/bond stranglehold. If the districts need money to deal with the impact of growth then it’s high time that developers and builders pay cost equalizing impact fees. And it’s also times like these when I remember what mom and dad told us when we whined for more….MAKE GOOD WITH WHAT YOU GOT AND THANK THE LORD FOR IT!