The EDge, Kevin Richert's Idaho Education blog

Levies and bonds: looking at the trends

Dec 13th, 2013. | Copyright © IdahoEdNews.org

In 2008-09, 61 Idaho school districts were using supplemental levies to help backfill their budgets.

In 2013-14, that figure had climbed to 94 districts.

Those numbers — demonstrating the increasing reliance on levies — come from Eric Heringer, a public finance managing director with Piper Jaffray & Co. in Boise.

Heringer is no stranger to school financing issues. He has helped the cash-strapped Nampa School District restructure its bonds, and his firm is currently providing guidance to the Twin Falls School District, as it takes a $73.86 million bond issue to voters in March.

Bond issues and plant facilities levies are the bread-and-butter financing tools used for building construction and maintenance. Since the state plays a very limited role in paying for school facilities, it’s up to districts such as Twin Falls to take property tax proposals to the voters.

Through the economic downturn, the number of districts with building-related debt has remained virtually stagnant. Eighty districts had bond issues in 2013-14, down from 81 in 2008-09. Fifty-one districts had plant facilities issues in 2013-14, unchanged from 2008-09.

That all stands to reason. Bond issues, in particular, are long-term financial arrangements. So the number of districts with bond issues is unlikely to change quickly, in response to the recession.

But supplemental levies run only one or two years. While some districts have been running and renewing supplemental levies for years, other districts clearly responded to declining state K-12 budgets by asking local property owners to make up the difference.

Already, the Meridian School District is talking about seeking a renewed levy in 2014, and the Nampa School District will go to voters with another levy sometime next year. (The Nampa district will meet with stakeholder groups Tuesday night to discuss its plans; the meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at district offices, Dec. 17, 619 S. Canyon St.)

More reading: Want to see historic supplemental levy trends in your school district? Click on Idaho Education News’ data center.

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