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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

A month after Spokane voted, Kootenai County will have its own school levies on the ballot

The new cafeteria set up at Woodland Middle School in Coeur d’Alene is photographed on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
The new cafeteria set up at Woodland Middle School in Coeur d’Alene is photographed on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

School districts in Kootenai County have a welcome message to taxpayers ahead of next month’s levy elections: Your taxes won’t be going up.

That’s good news in a year of job loss and restrictions on in-person learning, the latter aggravated by sharp spikes in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s three largest districts – Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Lakeland – all have two-year levies on the March 9 ballot.

Officially, they’re known as supplemental levies, but school administrators have long argued that they’re vital to cover basic educational necessities and inadequate state funding.

Of the state’s 115 districts, 92 are proposing supplemental levies this year.

“The local levy has become an integral part of how we fund public education,” said Scott Maben, director of communications for Coeur d’Alene Public Schools. “Most school districts in Idaho now need to rely on their communities to help cover a serious shortfall in state support.”

Coeur d’Alene’s levy proposal totals $40 million over two years, beginning July 1. The estimated annual cost is $145.54 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value.

The current supplemental levy is authorized for the same amount – $20 million per year – meaning that based on current market conditions, the tax will be unchanged.

The $20 million represents about one-quarter of the district’s annual operating budget, Maben said.

Fast growth and rising property values in the Coeur d’Alene-Hayden area have boosted the tax base, allowing the district to hold the line on rate per $100,000.

That growth does mean more students and larger costs down the road. However, the district has managed to hold the line on costs as well.

The growth also brings more families and students into the community every year, and over time that will increase costs for the school district. For now, though, the district is determined to maintain the local levy at the current level.

The district’s overall tax rate is currently $1.79 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value. That’s expected to fall to $1.71 next year.

Coeur d’Alene has traditionally given strong support to levies, which require only a simple majority for passage. No levy has failed since 1986.

At all districts in Idaho, supplemental levies cover a variety of programs and initiatives, including campus safety, nurses and mental health resources, classroom supplies, sports, music and other extracurricular activities and technology support.

That’s also the case in the Post Falls School District, where on Jan. 11, the board of trustees approved a two-year, $9.91 million levy.

That’s the same amount as the current levy, which expires on July 1.

The estimated average cost of the proposed supplemental levy is an annual tax of $102.18 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value, based on current conditions.

Post Falls’ current overall tax rate is $1.70 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value.

The Lakeland School District, which includes Rathdrum and much of northern Kootenai County, also has a levy proposal – $9.52 million per year for two years, beginning July 1.

If passed, the cost would be $222 annually per $100,000 of taxable assessed value.

The current levy costs $210 per $100,000, which will expire if the proposed levy goes into effect. However, the cost of a current bond levy is expected to drop by $12, meaning that the overall tax burden will remain the same.

The Kootenai School District, which also includes part of Benewah County, is proposing a two-year $725,000 levy.

If passed, it would impose a tax of $96.21 per $100,000 of assessed value, a decrease of $3.32 per $100,000 from the levy that expires on July 1.

Polling places will be open on March 9 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Absentee ballots can also be picked up in person at the Elections Office located at 1808 N. Third Street in Coeur d’Alene. The deadline to request an absentee ballot online is Feb. 26.

For questions about the election, call the Kootenai County Elections office at (208) 446-1030.

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