The Twin Falls School District Board of Trustees approved an emergency levy for $1.3 million in a special meeting on Monday. The full amount – $1,304,546 – is roughly 3 percent of the district’s $45 million budget.
The levy will be used to hire six new para-educators, one half-time teacher, and to purchase additional supplies and books. The district has seen an overall student growth rate of 2-4 percent in just the past couple of years, prompting the need for additional teachers and supplies. Since 2011, district enrollment grew 9.9 percent.
There are 236 more students this year. Total student enrollment is at 9,097.
“We did a pretty good job of projecting student growth, we projected pretty close, but missed it by about 100 students,” said Superintendent Wiley Dobbs. “We also have gotten woefully behind on textbook adoptions because of lean years. We desperately need textbooks for our math classes.”
Estimated cost of books for math levels kindergarten through algebra II: $1.5 million.
“On top of that, two years from now we’ll have two new elementary schools and we have a new middle school that we’ll be building,” Dobbs said. “We have immediate needs, but we also want to get ahead of that curve and be ready for the kids.”
Construction on Rock Creek Elementary is underway, with Pillar Falls Elementary and South Hills Middle School to follow. Both elementary schools are scheduled to open for school year 2016-17, with the middle school opening sometime the following year. Boundaries will be discussed this fall. The district has opted to hire para-educators because “there are no full-time teachers out there right now to hire,” he said. A para-educator works under the supervision of teachers or other professional practitioners.
The Board of Trustees last year approved an emergency levy for $1.1 million. This year’s levy increase of some $200,000, is the full amount that the board could approve.
Dobbs said residents should not notice a significant increase in taxes because of a broader tax base in the community. Several new businesses have set up shop in Twin Falls, including Bed Bath & Beyond, DICK’S Sporting Goods, and a Ross: Dress for Less clothing store. One of the bigger companies set to open is Clif Bar, which is building a facility near the Chobani manufacturing plant on Kimberly Road. And recently it was announced that Red Robin will open a restaurant in the city, and Popeye’s Chicken is considering opening in Twin Falls. St. Luke’s Magic Valley Hospital continues to be a big draw, Dobbs said, often bringing new residents to town.
“The levy shouldn’t raise taxes that much. It won’t lower taxes either,” he said. “It’s very close to what we had last year, but we’ve also seen a lot of economic growth since then, so our tax base is broader. I’d say that taxpayers, with the levy amount spread over the entire community, won’t see much of a change at all.”
The district has until Sept. 8 to submit the levy request to the State Board of Education.