Emergency levy bill exceeds $10 million

(UPDATED, 12:13 p.m., with details from West Ada and Plummer-Worley districts.)

As a dozen Idaho school districts wrestle unexpected growth — or continued growth — taxpayers will foot a growing bill.

These districts will collect $10.1 million in emergency levies: one-year property taxes designed to handle the costs that come with additional students. Other school levies require voter approval. But trustees in growing school districts can decide unilaterally to collect an emergency levy.

This year’s emergency levy bill comes to at least $10.1 million, an increase from previous years. Districts collected $9.1 million in 2016-17, $8.7 million in 2015-16 and $6.4 million in 2014-15.

The emergency levies also provide a snapshot into the state’s growth trends. And these trends aren’t really surprising. Three perennial growth hotspots — West Ada, Twin Falls and Bonneville — account for more than $8 million of this year’s emergency levies.

Here’s the rundown:

West Ada: For Idaho’s largest school district, a continuing growth spurt shows no signs of slowing down. West Ada will collect a $4,084,266 emergency levy.

If anything, the pressures of growth appear to be intensifying. A year ago, West Ada collected a $3 million emergency levy.

West Ada is using this year’s levy to hire 22 teachers. The money will also go toward equipping an influx of students with textbooks, desk and chairs and computers and tablets.

Enrollment is up by 891 students, bringing Tuesday’s student count to 39,018, district spokesman Eric Exline said.

Twin Falls: The fast-growing Magic Valley district will use a $2.26 million levy to add 29 full-time positions — half in teaching, half in support staff. Twin Falls will spend some of the money on textbooks and other class materials, and put some money in reserve to handle enrollment growth that generally occurs during the school year.

Based on early numbers, enrollment is up by nearly 300 students, a 3.2 percent increase.

Bonneville: The eastern Idaho district will collect $1,674,534 to handle growth-related expenses. Bonneville is one of the state’s fastest-growing districts. This year, enrollment is up about 380 students, roughly a 3.1 percent increase.

Jefferson County: $643,925. No details available.

Lakeland: $420,414. No details available.

Coeur d’Alene: Most of the $219,588 will be used to hire assistants in overcrowded elementary school classrooms. One of the goals is to provide extra help to students with learning disabilities.

About 44 elementary school classrooms exceed the district’s caps on class size.

Emergency levy money will pay for two additional ninth-grade classes at Lake City High School.

Coeur d’Alene’s early-year attendance came in at 10,577, an increase of 66 students.

Teton County: The $203,452 levy will go towards hiring paraprofessionals to help with special education, and cover other staffing and school needs.

Enrollment is up by close to 40 students in Teton County, more than a 2 percent increase.

Kimberly: Facing a 3.2 percent increase in enrollment, the district will use the majority of its $153,033 levy to hire paraprofessionals for kindergarten, middle school and special education.

Kuna: $134,460. No details available.

Garden Valley: The district’s $127,843 emergency levy will cover hiring a paraprofessional, increased busing costs and other expenses. With 14 additional students, Garden Valley’s enrollment is up 6 percent.

Plummer-Worley: The North Idaho district will use $93,900 to hire a special education teacher and a special education paraprofessional. Enrollment is up by 13 students, an increase of close to 4 percent.

Payette: Facing an enrollment increase concentrated at the high school, Payette will use its $84,864 levy for textbooks and learning supplies. Enrollment is up 16 students, up slightly more than 1 percent.

While 12 districts have decided to take emergency levies, at least two growing districts decided to hold the line. Middleton and Fruitland decided against an emergency levy, despite enrollment increases.

Average daily school attendance is the metric used to determine whether a district qualifies for an emergency levy. In other words, it is possible for a district to collect an emergency levy despite an enrollment decrease.

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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