LPOSD begins levy programs

SANDPOINT — Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent Shawn Woodward has been honing his levy presentations over the past few weeks.

With several community meetings under his belt, Woodward presented the current version of his levy presentation to the school board Tuesday evening. He added that he would likely revise and expand the presentation based on frequently-asked questions and other factors. Board members applauded him for a concise and thorough rundown of the facts.

No matter what form the presentation takes, the essential rundown is the same, he said. In its current incarnation, the supplemental levy funds one-third of district staff, all extracurricular activities, the small, more rural community schools and district technology and curricular materials. According to Woodward, all these factors are key to the district’s high performance in comparison to the rest of the state.

“If we cut much more, it’s going to start attacking learning,” he said.

Woodward said in past presentations, one of the most-asked questions is why the school board voted to increase the levy by about $1 million a year. The simple answer, he added, was reduced state and federal revenue. The longer answer is somewhat more discouraging. According to current estimations, the board will probably need to cut as much as $1 million from the budget even if the levy passes.

The trend of cuts has been an ongoing one for the past several years. According to Woodward, the district has had to cut 116 staff members over the last five years in addition to many programs and transportation services.

Woodward hopes that the district’s high standing in Idaho education will convince voters to continue their support. Over the past five years, the district has charted continuous improvement in ISAT scores. In addition, individual schools have won several honors. A substantial number are rated four or five stars, Sandpoint Middle School ranks sixth academically among all Idaho middle schools and Southside Elementary is one of 320 Blue Ribbon schools in the entire nation.

Furthermore, the district is a major presence in the community, serving 3,633 students and employing 550 individuals full time. Eighty-five percent of the district budget goes into salaries and benefits, which employees then reinvest into their local communities. According to Woodward, that means there’s an economic incentive to support the levy.

Beyond that though, Woodward said the primary incentive is to make sure that local students learn the skills they need to be successful.  

“I’ve actually enjoyed getting out there into the community,” Woodward said. “This levy is about (the budget), but it’s also about the investment that people are making through their local taxes.”   

Voters will approve or shut down the $7,883,742 levy March 12 at their regular polling places. If the levy passes, it will mean a $3.66-a-month increase for every $200,000 of property value in local taxes, assuming the individual has a homeowner’s exemption. That amounts to a total of $18.66 a month per $200,000 in property value. Residents currently pay $15 a month based on the same parameters. 

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