SANDPOINT — Voters across the county made their way to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of supplemental levies in three districts.
In preliminary results, the Lake Pend Oreille School District’s two-year $25.4 million request had garnered 2,835 yes votes, or 56.32 percent, to 2,199 no votes, or 43.68 percent.
The West Bonner County School District, with a request of $6 million over two years was failing as of press time with 83 in favor and 105 against, 55.85 percent voting no with 44.15 voting in favor of the levy.
WBCSD also had a second question on the ballot, whether or not to make the $3 million per year request permanent, rather than going to voters for approval every two years. Preliminary results showed strong opposition, with 122, or 67.03 percent, voting no and 60, or 32.97 percent, in favor.
The Lakeland Joint School District is requesting $8.99 million over the next two years, and the early result from Bonner County showed only 6 people voting for the levy, all against. Overall, the measure appeared headed to approval, with 53.18 percent, or 326 votes, voting to approve the levy compared to 46.82 percent, or 287 people, voting against.
If approved, the LPOSD measure will replace the two-year, $17 million levy approved by voters in 2017, which expires in June. The levy funds approximately 30 percent of the district’s maintenance and operational costs, including technology, curriculum, all student activities, and bus acquisition. The largest portion of the proposed levy, the reason for the increase, would be dedicated to raising salaries.
District officials recently engaged the community in a year-long strategic planning process that resulted in five priority areas, one of which was to recruit and retain highly effective staff.
Superintendent Shawn Woodward said the goal is to make the district more competitive with Idaho’s regional schools, such as Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls to help meet that priority.
Under the current levy amount, the tax rate with an assessed value of $250,000 with a homeowner’s exemption is $20.75 per month. If approved, the replacement levy would increase that amount by $6.92 per month in 2020.
WBCSD and Lakeland’s requests would replace levies of the same amounts approved by voters in 2017.
WBCSD relies on the levy for 26 percent of its budget and covers areas such as the district’s general fund shortfall of $2,128,737 per year, as well as class fees, the school resource officer, technology supplies, library and school funds, and curriculum among others.
If the two-year levy passes, while the requested amount is the same, Superintendent Paul Anselmo said the levy rates for taxpayers will go down due to the sale of lots at Priest Lake.
The rates have been reduced to $1.47 per $1,000 of assessed property value, down from $1.76 previous.
The second question on the WBCSD ballot asks voters to approve a permanent supplemental override. The permanent override would haved allowed the district to levy up to $3 million each year without having to ask voters to approve it every two years.
School districts in Idaho are eligible for the override after seven consecutive years of voter-approved levies that account for more than 20 percent of the district’s general fund. If the permanent override is approved, the district cannot levy more than $3 million in future years, though they can levy less if state funding increases.
If the district ever chooses to levy more than $3 million, they will have to take it back to the voters.
For Lakeland, the levy funds represent about 25 percent of the district’s general fund.
Brian Wallace, the district’s finance director, said in December that the existing taxes will not increase if the proposal is approved. He estimated that, with a total assessed value of the district estimated to increase by 5 percent, the supplemental levy rate would go down to $2.71 per $1,000 taxable value in 2020, and $2.58 in 2021. The current rate is $2.85.
Lakeland’s supplemental levy funds help pay for maintenance and operations expenses, including all-day kindergarten, technology, all academic and athletic extra-curricular activities, classroom materials, safety improvements, Advanced Learning Program opportunities and expansion of the vocational program.
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