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COMMENTARY: School levy facts

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| August 26, 2022 1:00 AM

This coming Tuesday Aug. 30 there is a School Plant Facilities Reserve Fund Levy Election that would authorize the Coeur d’Alene School District No. 271 board of trustees to levy and collect up to $8 million each year for 10 years.

As stated on the ballot: “The estimated average cost to the taxpayer on the proposed levy is a tax of $50.03 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value, per year, based on current conditions." Assuming an average home assessed value of $595,000 and a $125,000 homeowner’s exemption the cost would be $50.03 X (($595,000-$125,000)/$100,000) = $235.14.

Your property taxes are calculated by taking the revenue needed for government, which is the approved budget amount, and dividing that by the total taxable assessed value of all the properties in the county. This gives us the levy rate and the levy rate is then multiplied by your property value (less the $125,000 homeowners exemption if applicable) to get the property tax you owe.

Last year the levy rates went down because the property values went up but the budgets also went up so the product was that your property tax went up by several percent.

The SD271 website talks about levy RATES going down and a linked news story implies that property taxes would go down as a result. This may not be the case.

This type of levy requires 55% approval of the people who cast ballots.

There is another general election this coming Nov. 8, nine weeks away. Our county clerk estimates the cost of this special election to likely be in excess of $60,000. Special elections are preferred for levy and bond elections because low voter turnout increases the chance of them passing.

SD271 officials say the additional $8 million per year is needed to address “deferred maintenance” of security systems and facilities. Deferred maintenance is another way of saying that the administrators and trustees spent the money they had on other things they thought more important and deferred the safety maintenance to the future.

The SD271 website projects that the $80 million will not eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog; it may only keep it from getting worse.

The Safety and Security projects page lists $5 million in projects over the next five years and says the annual discretionary security budget is $120,000, but the district administrators and the trustees set the budget.

District wide student enrollment for SD2171 in 2011-12 was 10,170. Last year’s enrollment was 10,242 students, an increase of 72 students.

During the last legislative session, the Legislature approved a $284 million increase in educator salaries and benefits statewide.

The governor has called a special session of the Legislature to consider a $330 million education spending bill, and in November we will be voting on a tax initiative, Proposition 1, and if it passes it would funnel another $323 million per year into education.

Academic performance for SD271:

60.6% of students in grades 3-11 test at or above grade level in English Language Arts.

43.9% of students in grades 3-11 test at or above grade level in Math

For comparison the North Idaho STEM Charter Academy has 2021-22 budget of $3,720,657 and serves 600 students for an annual cost per student of $6,201.

North Idaho STEM does not have meal or bus service or remedial or special education services. North Idaho STEM is one of the top-rated schools in Idaho.

North Idaho STEM receives no levy or bond funding but last year was able to build a new two-story 22,500-square-foot building with eight new classrooms, fabrication lab and common areas.

Vote Tuesday. Good decisions require good information.

It’s just common sense.

• • •

Brent Regan is the chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.

Editor's note: The ballot language for this supplemental levy had to be filed in June when the "current conditions" were very different, and as a result, the ballot language overstates the anticipated property tax effect for this levy. The levy rate for all taxing entities will be based on the 2022-23 net value of property in the school district, not the 2021-22 value which was the current condition when the ballot language was filed. This means that with passage of the levy the school district's levy rate will be about $1.31 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value. Based on current conditions, the owner of a $595,000 home, with a homeowner's exemption, is estimated to see their tax bill go up by roughly $146 for the year, not the $235.14 stated in this column.

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