West Ada floats another idea to offset building costs

For years, West Ada School District leaders have said the state should do more to cover the cost of new schools.

Now, the state’s largest school district is floating a new idea, saying the state should cover half the cost of bond issues.

West Ada will present the idea at the Idaho School Boards Association’s annual meeting in November, Patty Bowen of the Meridian Press reported last week. If ISBA members sign on, the resolution would become part of the group’s legislative agenda for the next two years.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder says the district needs to have a lawyer look over the proposal, but he told Bowen that he is sympathetic to the plight of growing districts across Idaho.

“This isn’t a Canyon or Ada County problem, this is a problem occurring around the state,” said Winder, R-Boise, the co-chair of a legislative committee reviewing Idaho’s school funding formula.

Districts are largely on the hook for paying for school building projects — after they secure two-thirds voter support for bond issues. In March, West Ada voters approved a $95 million bond issue for a new high school, a new elementary school and other capital projects.

The state does provide some help to West Ada and other districts. The state’s bond levy equalization program helps offset building costs; in 2018-19, that’s a $23.2 million state budget line item.

But the West Ada “50-50” plan would carry a considerably higher price tag. In 2017-18, school districts collected $165.9 million in property taxes to cover the cost of bond issues.

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