First day of kindergarten

Tammy Petersen gives directions to students in her afternoon kindergarten class Aug. 17, 2017 at Sawtooth Elementary School in Twin Falls.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls school board approved a $2.26 million emergency levy Monday night to address an influx of students

School boards are allowed to pursue an emergency levy by the second week of September if average daily attendance rates are higher than the previous year. It’s taxpayer money, but doesn’t have to be approved by voters.

Money will be used to hire more teachers and staff members, and for curriculum materials to help meet the needs of students.

The Twin Falls School District has 9,567 students, up 296 from last year, as of Aug. 25. That’s a 3.2 percent increase.

“I’m happy to report that it’s very close to where we thought the numbers would be,” Superintendent Brady Dickinson told trustees.

However, the additional students didn’t fall where school officials expected, he said. There are fewer kindergartners, especially at Morningside Elementary School, where one teacher was transferred to Oregon Trail Elementary School.

So far, $1.6 million of the emergency levy money will be set aside for specific school needs: a fifth-grade teacher at Rock Creek Elementary School ($50,000), fourth-grade teacher at Pillar Falls Elementary School ($50,000), fifth-grade teacher at Oregon Trail ($50,000), 11.5 certified positions at the new South Hills Middle School ($575,000), 14.5 classified staff positions at South Hills ($517,000) and $400,000 for curriculum for all schools.

The rest of the levy money will be for curriculum and supplies as needed throughout the school year.

The district built its budget for this year planning on an emergency levy, fiscal affairs director Bob Seaman said.

Board chairman Bernie Jansen asked what the budget advisory committee’s feedback was on the levy amount.

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“There were no negative votes for the recommendation,” Seaman said.

Some members of the committee, which includes community members, raised concerns about property tax rates, Dickinson said.

But the good news is the emergency levy amount is extremely close to last year, he said, so property tax rates should remain about the same.

New construction in Twin Falls and an increase in assessed value also means less of a property tax burden, Seaman said.

And the school district is taking less emergency levy money than what it qualifies for.

During their meeting, trustees also recognized employees of the month from Morningside Elementary School: Title I paraprofessional Arely Moreno and first-grade teacher Raelene Hohnhorst.

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