Friday, September 30, 2022

No emergency school levies

Staff Writer | September 10, 2022 1:08 AM

School districts across Kootenai County will not pursue emergency levy funding for the 2022-23 school year, even if they qualify.

At the start of each school year, K-12 districts have the option under state law of exercising elective taxing authority, without voter approval, for property tax relief when more students show up than expected. The money covers the cost of educating additional students not yet included in state funding and not budgeted for. Eligibility is determined by comparing the current year's average daily attendance during the first week of school with that of the previous year.

The Coeur d'Alene School District reported an average daily attendance of 9,996.7 students the first three days of school — an increase of 22 students per day from the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. While Coeur d'Alene qualified for an emergency levy, Superintendent Shon Hocker said he believed the increase in attendance to be minor and that any additional operating costs could be covered with a portion of the district's remaining federal COVID relief funds this year.

Post Falls School District did not qualify for an emergency levy. Attendance numbers from the first day of school Tuesday showed an increase of 100 students at the elementary level, from 2,791 last year to 2,891 this year, and a decrease of secondary students from 3,199 to 3,069, for a grand total of 5,960 students this year, or 30 less than the 5,990 students counted at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The Lakeland Joint School District will not pursue an emergency levy. Its average daily attendance numbers were not available to The Press by press time.

Kootenai Joint School District Superintendent Scott Davis reported nearly 100% student attendance the first week of school. He said his district has about 200 students, an increase of 20 students from last school year. Kootenai will not pursue an emergency levy.

"Everybody's really in good spirits," Davis said Friday. "It's doom and gloom out there for education, but not here at Kootenai. For what we've got we sure work with it well and we're happy to be here."

The Plummer-Worley School District also will not hold an emergency levy.

"Our enrollment numbers are down slightly from last year, so we would not even qualify for such a levy," Superintendent Russ Mitchell said.

Looking through the lens of enrollment, Coeur d'Alene School District spokesman Scott Maben reported Coeur d'Alene to have 10,215 students this school year — 4,574 elementary and 5,641 secondary. Last year's enrollment was 4,572 elementary and 5,660 secondary for a total of 10,232 students. He said enrollment will fluctuate through the year, with fewer students expected at the end of the year for various reasons.

Maben said Coeur d'Alene's enrollment has stabilized following a loss of about 800 students early in the pandemic.

"We believe there are several reasons for this," he said. "One is the availability and cost of housing within our district. More and more we hear that families with school-aged children cannot find affordable housing in the Coeur d'Alene and Hayden area. They instead are looking to rent or buy outside our district. Many of those who are relocating to our district do not have children in school, such as empty-nesters and retirees."

Regarding why school populations don't seem to reflect growth felt elsewhere in the region, Maben said families have more options for students other than public schools, such as charter schools, private schools and online learning.

"We have a diverse population looking for a range of choices, and this community is providing that," he said. "As a school district we also provide choices for families, including our new online school, Coeur d'Alene Virtual Academy. It has over 100 students enrolled, and almost a quarter of those are from outside our school district."

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