This year, taxpayers will shell out a record $596.1 million for education bonds and levies

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
22–23 $217.4 million                             91
21-22 $218.2 million 89
20-21 $216.6 million 92
19-20 $214 million 92
18-19 $202.2 million 93
17-18 $194.7 million 93
16-17 $188.8 million 93
15-16 $187.6 million 94
14-15 $180.2 million 92
13-14 $188.1 million 91
12-13 $169 million 84
11-12 $139.6 million 80

*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
Boise $139.4 million
West Ada $61 million
Blaine County $37.1 million
Lewiston $28.9 million
Coeur d’Alene $25.2 million
Vallivue $19 million
Twin Falls $17.1 million
Nampa $16.5 million
Idaho Falls $14.3 million
Pocatello $13.7 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
Lewiston  $617.78
Genesee  $530.22
Aberdeen $523.92
Moscow $480.38
Kendrick  $479.49
Mullan $457.71
Richfield $450.70
Potlatch $421.06
Murtaugh         $384.62
Troy $363.32

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
Day-to-day operations $850,000
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.

Go here to see the full ballot language and here for a fact sheet on the levy. 

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
Staffing $4 million
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.

Carly Flandro

About Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works in EdNews’ East Idaho bureau. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity, and equity. You can follow Flandro on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips at [email protected]

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