On November 5th (and earlier by way of early in-person voting), residents within Lake Pend Oreille School district will be asked to vote on an Indefinite Term Supplemental Levy. We wanted to address many of the questions surrounding this important issue.
The levy asks for voters to continue funding an already approved levy of $12.7 million per year.
That might sound like a great deal of money to some of you, and you might be wondering why, if you voted just six months ago for this levy, are you being asked again?
The levy you voted to pass in March is effective from July 1, 2019, until June 30, 2021, at which time it would go back to the citizens for a vote. This creates an environment of uncertainty not only for teachers and staff but also for our community because it accounts for 35 percent of the school budget.
In 2019, the supplemental levy was passed for the 20th consecutive year. (More in a moment on why we have supplemental levies, to begin with.) This success rate allows our school district to bring an Indefinite Term Supplemental Levy to the ballot on November 5.
What does it fund?
- More than one-third of the staff – 300 full and part-time positions, providing them with regionally competitive compensation. (Currently, the state funds $38,500 up to $50,000 for the best teachers. We need to supplement that to be competitive.)
- 300 full and part-time staff positions to keep the size of classes reasonable
- Offer elective and career technical education courses
- Small rural schools
- Academic and athletic extracurricular activities
- Curriculum and instructional materials
- Professional development and mentoring for staff
- Technology and teaching materials
Why are our rural schools always at risk?
Our school district is somewhat unique in that we are very spread out geographically. But we like our rural schools, and the state formula is set up to fund schools of 700, not 70. The local component of the funding does fund smaller schools and unequivocally keeps them open.
This is about our local economy, not just our school system.
The school district is the largest employer in the county. For every job the district provides, it supports three other service jobs in the community, such as fire, roads, hospital services, and retail. The economic impact is much more significant than just the teachers and jobs at the school district.
The “indefinite term” does not equate to a lack of oversight.
All budgeting for public entities is done in a public session. LPOSD submits a budget annually for internal and external audit. All budgets and expenditures, by law, are posted online for public transparency. According to LPOSD CFO Lisa Hals, “We do even more than is required by law. We separate property tax dollars and expenses incurred against those collections. We can show this is the revenue we received, and these are the dollars that were spent.”
Our property taxes are already low as it is.
We live here for the beauty and the lifestyle. Many of us also love it for the low cost of living. Did you know Bonner County is the sixth wealthiest property-assessed school district in the state ($5.9 billion)? Because of that, we enjoy a lower tax rate by half compared to other Idaho taxpayers. Generally, a taxpayer pays almost a third of their taxes to support their school district, but in this county, the school component accounts for 20 percent of the average tax bill, the lowest in Idaho. If the levy passes, individual tax bills will not increase. They might even decrease as more parcels come onto the tax roll.
What if the levy doesn’t pass?
The supplemental levy will continue to be on the ballot every two years. Our school leadership and staff will take time out of their regular duties to make the case to the public. Taxpayers will cover the $15,000 to $30,000 cost of each ballot. Every two years, 35 percent of the school’s budget will be at question.
You can learn more here on how Idaho schools are funded.
And here is a primer on why we have levies:
How and Where to Vote
- Bonner County Clerk’s office or your regular county precinct polling site
- Absentee ballots available from the county
- Early in-person voting is Oct 15th to Nov 1
- 1500 Hwy 2 Suite 124 Sandpoint