LPOSD ponders $7.88M levy

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SANDPOINT — The Lake Pend Oreille School Board will soon have an levy proposal on the books.

Although it won’t be official until board members formalize it at their next meeting, they were in agreement at a special meeting Tuesday evening that a levy totaling $7,883,742 per year was the best choice.

Known as “option four” in previous presentations, the levy is an increase of about $1 million over the $6.8 million-a-year levy passed in early 2011. According to board members, the increased levy revenue will help stave off an at-this-point unknown amount of cuts.

“It’s a balance to hold most of what we’re doing together while showing taxpayers that we’re going to make some cuts,” board member Vickie Pfeifer said.

The levy totals about $224 a year per $200,000 in property value — or about $18.60 a month — assuming the owner has a homeowner’s exemption. For comparison, the lowest option considered by board members represented a slight reduction of the 2011-13 levy and totaled $192 a year per $200,000 of property value.

Even with an increase in levy revenue, the district will be facing cuts. According to data presented by district business manager Lisa Hals, the passage of a $7.8 million levy would likely still require an estimated $498,525 in cuts. The hope of board members is that state funding and other revenue sources will be sufficient to mitigate further budgetary woes.

“We’ve hit the point now where if we cut any more than we have now, something’s going to give, and I’m afraid it’s going to be student achievement,” board member Steve Youngdahl said

The primary concern of board member Joan Fish was that the district choose an option with the greatest chance of passing. While the 2011-13 levy received a healthy percentage of support at 3,577 ayes to 2,163 nays, board members said that supporters would need to take an active role in encouraging individuals to vote.

“We’re going to need the support of every single person here,” she said.

The primary direction board members and Superintendent Shawn Woodward plan to take in presenting the levy is to demonstrate the high level of value residents receive from the school district. They noted in particular the high-ranking performance of LPOSD schools in comparison to other state districts.

“When people come in (to these meetings) and see our results, they support us,” said Youngdahl.

To that end, the next few months will be busy ones for Woodward, who said he will maintain a busy schedule of meetings with various community organizations to give an overview of the levy and demonstrate its worth. District officials were confident that they can make a compelling case.

“We’ve done this before and we can do it again, so let’s get to work,” board member Mindy Cameron said.

As with previous meetings, the public had a chance to speak in favor or against various departments within the school district. All of the public commentary on Tuesday was in favor of a strong and well-supported school system, with special attention paid to upper quartile math and advanced Spanish courses.

As with previous meetings, however, board members noted that it was still to early to discuss specific cuts. Because the majority of the district’s other revenue sources won’t be clear until later next year, board members are holding off on that discussion for now.

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