Supplemental levies: by the numbers

(UPDATED, 4:13 p.m. Sept. 19, to clarify the number of districts with a levy on the books.)

I’ve taken a closer look at the growing number of supplemental levies in Idaho — reaching the conclusion that Idaho school districts have collected more than $1 billion in voter-approved property tax levies during Gov. Butch Otter’s tenure as governor.

In researching that story, I’ve cobbled together some other odds and ends. Here’s a sampling:

How many districts have a supplemental levy in place?

It depends on the definition. In 2013-14, voter-approved levies were in place in 91 of Idaho’s 115 school districts.

But a handful of districts — those with a large property tax base and relatively low enrollment — are allowed to collect “budget stabilization” levies. This is an offshoot of the property-tax law pushed by then Gov.-Jim Risch in 2006. Factor these levies into the equation, and you have 94 school districts collecting supplemental levies in 2013-14 — the number that seems most commonly used in the school funding debate.

But that figure may be outdated. Voters in five districts passed supplemental levies for 2014-15 and beyond — Garden Valley, Basin, Firth, Kamiah and Madison. That brings the updated to total to 95.

What’s the smallest district that collects a supplemental levy?

It’s the tiny Arbon Elementary school district in Power County, home to only 19 students. Voters have maintained a $50,000 levy, translating to $2,632 per student.

And what’s the largest district that doesn’t collect a supplemental levy?
As of right now, it’s the Jefferson County joint district in eastern Idaho — the state’s 14th largest district, with 5,106 students. A two-year, $2 million supplemental levy failed in Jefferson County in May 2013.

What are the biggies?

The largest levies, by district, in 2013-14:

  • Boise: $22,708,000.
  • Coeur d’Alene: $14,266,762.
  • West Ada: $14,00,000.
  • Lewiston: $12,567,112.
  • Moscow: $9,586,000.

As charter districts that were established before Idaho became a state, Boise and Lewiston have unique property taxing authority. For instance, Boise’s figure is inflated by three voter-approved levies that have remained on the books for years; the oldest dates back to 1983.

And what are smallest supplementals?

Again, these are 2013-14 rankings:

  • Arbon Elementary: $50,000.
  • Cambridge: $50,000.
  • Council: $50,000.
  • West Side: $90,000.
  • Meadows Valley: $145,000.

What about the long view?

These five districts have collected the most money in supplemental levies, from July 1, 1992 through June 30:

  • Boise: $250,576,000.
  • Lewiston: $210,174,167.
  • Idaho Falls: $134,879,000.
  • Coeur d’Alene: $130,615,056.
  • Moscow: $128,692,000.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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