West Ada bond issue: by the numbers

(UPDATED, Friday, 11:14 a.m., with corrected numbers from the West Ada district.)

Idaho’s largest school district made it official earlier this month: It will seek approval for a $104 million bond issue on Aug. 26.

Meridian Middle School first day
The first day of school, August 2013, at Meridian Middle School.

Let’s walk through the other key numbers about the proposal from the Meridian School District — which is in the process of renaming itself the West Ada School District.

What does it mean for taxpayers?

$438: The current property tax levy rate for West Ada district schools, per $100,000 in taxable value. This takes in all existing bond issues and school tax levies now on the books. If a home has a taxable value of $150,000, after the homeowner’s exemption, the tax for schools comes to $657.

$399: The projected 2014-15 property tax levy rate for schools, per $100,000 in taxable value — even if the bond issue passes. For that home with $150,000 of taxable value, the tax for schools comes to $598.50, nearly a 9 percent decrease from the current tax.

How can property tax rates drop, even if voters commit to $104 million in long-term debt? Growth.

18.8 percent. West Ada expects taxable property values to increase by 18.8 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15. The overall taxable value will increase from about $12.1 billion to $14.3 billion. This increase nearly brings district’s property value to pre-recession levels. More importantly, for purposes of this bond issue, the district would be able to spread the new long-term debt across a considerably larger tax base.

$2.41. The net cost of the bond issue, on $100,000 of taxable property.

Here’s where the numbers get confusing, and where growth again enters the equation.

It would actually require a larger tax increase — some $28.10 per $100,000 on taxable property — to generate the $4 million or so that the bond issue will generate annually. But the tax rate on existing bond issues will drop at the same time, because of the district’s expanding tax base. As a result, the net cost comes to $2.41 per $100,000 of taxable value, district spokesman Eric Exline said Friday morning.

Where would the money go?

$60 million: The majority of the bond issue would go toward building two new middle schools.

$12 million: The projected price tag for the third new school, an elementary school.

$24 million: The cost to complete a  $32 million renovation at Meridian High School, another ingredient in the bond issue.

$8 million: Money that would be earmarked to acquire sites for a new high school and middle school.

Rising enrollment drives the proposal

2005: The last time Meridian pursued a bond issue. At the tail end of the district’s residential building boom, voters approved a $139 million bond issue.

30,582: The district’s 2005-06 fall enrollment.

36,111: The district’s 2013-14 enrollment, an 18 percent increase over eight years.

650: The district’s projected enrollment growth for 2014-15, which would push overall enrollment close to the 37,000 mark.

932: The district’s most severe overcrowding is in its middle schools. Middle school enrollment totaled 8,482 in 2013-14 — 932 students above building capacity of 7,550.

A little school election history

60 percent: With three-fifths of the vote, district voters in March approved a two-year, $28 million supplemental levy. That’s a comfortable margin to approve a levy, which requires a simple majority. But it’s well short of the two-thirds majority required to pass a bond issue.

Four: It’s said that all politics is local. And nowhere is that more true than in a local school bond issue. But it’s worth noting that six school districts have sought bond issues so far in 2014 — and four, a supermajority of sorts, have passed. Notable on this list are Twin Falls’ $73.8 million bond issue and a $4.8 million bond issue passed in the North Gem district, with exactly the required two-thirds support. The biggest loss: Bonneville’s $92 million bond issue, overwhelmingly rejected in March.

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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