April 30, 1995 in Idaho

Voters To Decide School Levy Opponents Say It’s Not Needed; District Explains Why It Is

By The Spokesman-Review
 

School officials are promoting their two-year, $2.9 million supplemental levy as a simple way to keep up existing programs and safe schools.

Opponents portray the levy as evidence that overpaid educators are getting greedy.

Voters on both sides of the debate will have their say in Tuesday’s election.

For years, many Idaho school districts used supplemental levies to fill out their budgets. School officials argue that without the levy, educational programs would be bare-bones affairs.

Tax foe Ron Rankin, president of the Kootenai County Property Owners Association, argues the huge increase in state money for schools in 1994 makes supplemental levies unnecessary.

“When we passed it two years ago, state funding was questionable, so we didn’t oppose it,” Rankin said of the district’s two-year, $2.5 million levy passed in 1993.

Here are the main arguments of levy opponents and the responses from school officials:

Claim: School district income has outpaced the number of students.

Rankin cites an increase of 9 percent in state money and a 26 percent increase in local taxes to Coeur d’Alene schools in the last two years.

In that time, student body only has increased 6 percent.

Response: State money for local districts is based on student numbers. When property value increases, the school’s share of state revenue is scaled back.

Overall, the proposed increase in the school district general fund budget is about $1 million more than last year’s $30.5 million budget. The 1993-94 budget was $25.3 million.

During the early 1990s, state monies did not keep up with district growth of roughly 1,500 students.

From 1993 to 1995, increased revenue allowed the district to lower class sizes and increase staffing to a more appropriate level, school officials say.

Claim: Because the state put an additional $142 million into education since the last levy election, schools shouldn’t need a local property tax increase.

Response: “There’s millions of dollars in there that don’t go through to the districts,” said assistant superintendent Dave Teater.

For instance, in 1994 more than $10 million of the $95 million increase was dedicated to technology grants and other programs outside general operations.

The state influx of $3 million into Coeur d’Alene School District went toward new positions the district needed to lower class size and staff the new Lake City High School. Part of the increase to local school districts went to cover personnel taxes and benefits that used to be paid at the state level.

Despite what appears to be a huge increase in school monies, Idaho ranks 47th in the nation for how much it spends per student.

“Idaho still spends $1,500 less per pupil than the national average,” said Superintendent Doug Cresswell.

Claim: Continued reliance on supplemental levies will overburden property owners.

Response: In the coming year the total school tax package will most likely decrease, based on estimates of the district’s property value.

Four-fifths of the 26 percent increase in local school taxes the last two years was for the $16.9 million bond issue voters approved in 1992.

Three levies make up the school portion of property taxes: the maintenance and operations levy (which does not require a vote), the supplemental levy, and the bond levy. Schools can also impose an emergency levy in the fall, if school enrollment exceeds budget estimates.

This year, a new law set a lower limit on the amount that can be raised through the operations levy. That will drop the tax rate by about a dollar per $1,000 of assessed property values.

As a result, school officials expect the local tax contribution to the school budget to decrease by $1.6 million. That will be replaced by an estimated $2.6 million infusion of state sales tax revenue later in the year.

Claim: Teachers and administrators are paid too much and have excessive benefits.

Response: School administrators say they have to pay a competitive wage to attract good teachers. School districts are required by law to negotiate salaries and benefits, but certain benefits are also legally required.

A teacher’s base wage is $18,795, not including benefits. Teacher and administrative salaries are comparable to other districts Coeur d’Alene’s size.

Claim: State monies have decreased to Coeur d’Alene because the district has too many teachers.

Coeur d’Alene has 12 teachers who are not paid through the state reimbursement schedule.

Response: Districts are not punished for having too many teachers. Money is withheld only if they choose not to spend state reimbursement money on teachers.

School officials say the extra teachers are for additional programs in the schools, such as physical education in the elementary schools and high school electives.

Coeur d’Alene’s share of state money decreased because its property value increased, Teater said.

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. VOTE Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Kootenai Medical Center, North Idaho College’s Student Union Building, and all the district schools, except Project CDA.

2. NEW LEVY WOULDN’T MEAN TAX INCREASES The Coeur d’Alene School District is asking voters to approve another supplemental levy this week. But, due to a rise in property values and new limits on schools’ taxing power, total school taxes will be less than last year’s. Here’s why: Total district taxable value is… 1994 $2,084,465,988 1995 $2,459,669,866 with a total proposed levy of… 1994 $14,344,363 1995 $12,694,194 the average levy rate per $1,000 drops… 1994 $6.88 1995 $5.16 so even though the supplemental levy rate will rise from $1.19 per $1,000 to $1.21, the tax bill for the average house will drop $89.65. 1994 $447.30 1995 $357.65 Source: Coeur d’Alene School District Staff graphic

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. VOTE Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Kootenai Medical Center, North Idaho College’s Student Union Building, and all the district schools, except Project CDA.

2. NEW LEVY WOULDN’T MEAN TAX INCREASES The Coeur d’Alene School District is asking voters to approve another supplemental levy this week. But, due to a rise in property values and new limits on schools’ taxing power, total school taxes will be less than last year’s. Here’s why: Total district taxable value is… 1994 $2,084,465,988 1995 $2,459,669,866 with a total proposed levy of… 1994 $14,344,363 1995 $12,694,194 the average levy rate per $1,000 drops… 1994 $6.88 1995 $5.16 so even though the supplemental levy rate will rise from $1.19 per $1,000 to $1.21, the tax bill for the average house will drop $89.65. 1994 $447.30 1995 $357.65 Source: Coeur d’Alene School District Staff graphic

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