This year, Idaho taxpayers will shell out more than ever to support local education via bonds and levies. The total will ring up at $596.1 million – breaking last year’s record of $587.7 million.
Supplemental levies will make up about $217.4 million of that total, a drop from the previous year’s $218.2 million and the first decrease since 2014. Yet the figure is still the second-highest supplemental levy total over the past 12 years.
Local taxpayer financing of what school districts deem necessities – like staffing, facilities maintenance, new buildings, or school safety measures – has become the norm in Idaho. But depending on ballot measures to shore up school funding can be a risky business.
Since 2000, only 52 percent of bonds (which require a two-thirds majority) have passed. In that same time period, 76% of plant facility levies have passed and 93% of supplemental levies have passed.
In the face of failing school funding measures, a group of lawmakers is working to come up with more secure solutions to address aging schools, community growth, and a backlog of repair and maintenance needs. The committee hopes to have a set of proposals by the end of the month.
In the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers will also determine how to use more than $300 million in surplus money earmarked for K-12 education.
In the meantime, districts are left to ask voters to close the gap between the funding they get and the funding they say they need.
All told, 91 of 115 Idaho’s districts will collect supplemental levies this fiscal year – or about 80 percent, which is typical. The table below shows supplemental levy collection trends over the past 12 years.
|Fiscal Year||Amount collected for supplemental levies||Number of districts collecting levies|
*Years when the levy amount increased from the previous year are listed in green.
A district’s needs and ability to pass local ballot measures determines how much they collect each year in levies and bonds. The table below shows the districts that will collect the most from local taxpayers this fiscal year.
|District||Approximate total to be collected from all levies and bonds, FY 22-23|
|West Ada||$61 million|
|Blaine County||$37.1 million|
|Coeur d’Alene||$25.2 million|
|Twin Falls||$17.1 million|
|Idaho Falls||$14.3 million|
Another way to consider how districts collect taxes is by looking at the amounts paid per $100,000 of taxable value. Districts with the highest rates are listed below.
|District||Cost of all levies and bonds per $100,000 of taxable value, FY 22-23|
For a full list of total levy and bond rates/collections per district, go here.
For more background information on bonds and levies and how they work, go here.
Recently-announced supplemental levies
The majority of districts tend to run their levies and bonds in March, when they usually stand alone on the ballot. And if a measure fails in March, district officials have another chance to put it on the ballot later in the year.
Two southern Idaho school districts recently announced that they will be asking voters to approve nearly $28 million in supplemental levies on the March 14 ballot.
The Pocatello/Chubbuck School Board unanimously approved pursuing a two-year, $16.5 million levy Tuesday night, and the Twin Falls School Board unanimously approved pursuing a two-year, $11.4 million levy last month.
Pocatello/Chubbuck levy would be a $2 million decrease from existing levy
If passed, the Pocatello/Chubbuck levy would replace the existing $9.25 million-a-year levy, which expires on June 30. Over the proposed supplemental levy’s two-year life, voters would be paying $2 million less than they are now, according to the district.
The proposed levy would cost taxpayers an estimated $113.07 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value per year based on current conditions.
Here’s how the district plans to use the levy funds (a new law requires all districts to disclose on ballots how they will use levy dollars):
|Purpose||Approximate Amount Allocated|
|Salaries and benefits (to recruit and retain teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, support, and coaching staff)||$5.42 million|
|Special education: services, equipment, and staffing||$830,000|
|Instructional technology: equipment and staffing||$720,000|
|Transportation: Buses and staffing||$455,000|
|Total annual levy amount||$8.25 million|
If the levy failed, “it would be painful,” Jonathan Balls, the district’s director of business operations said at the meeting. However, that outcome would be unlikely as the levy has been in place for more than 60 years and has generally had strong community support, Courtney Fisher, the district’s spokesperson, said.
Twin Falls levy would pay for security, activities, and staffing
Twin Falls’ proposed levy would be a continuation of an existing levy. Although the amount would remain the same, the burden to taxpayers would decrease because of “growth to the tax base,” according to district documents.
“Keeping the levy amount the same allows the TFSD to continue offering high-level programs while honoring our taxpayers who will likely see a decrease in their tax rate in the next tax year as market values across the Twin Falls community continue to increase,” said Twin Falls School District Superintendent Brady Dickinson.
The proposed levy would cost taxpayers an estimated $75 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value per year based on current conditions.
Here’s how the district plans to use the levy funds, if passed:
|Purpose||Approximate Amount Allocated|
|Safety and security (security/behavior aids, secondary school resource officers, security guards)||$1.3 million|
|Activities (sports, drama, music, etc.)||$400,000|
|Total annual levy amount||$5.7 million|
Here’s a further breakdown on where the staffing money would go:
- Approximately 70 classified positions, including custodians, secretaries and teacher assistants.
- Approximately 21 certified positions (such as teachers).
- Approximately 6.5 administrative positions.
- Over 50 club advisers, mentors, coaches, website managers and other part-time or temporary positions
Without the levy, the district would potentially need to cut the above listed positions. A failed levy would also mean that students participating in extracurriculars might have to “pay to play,” according to a district press release.
Scroll to page 16 of this document to see the ballot language.
If your district is putting a levy on the March ballot, let us know. Email me at [email protected]
Data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.