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Class fees

Kindergarten teacher Lisa Honas answers a question from Jedidiah Nzapalaha during class in October 2016 at Lincoln Elementary School in Twin Falls. The kindergarten classes are selling sno-cones to raise money for field trips, assemblies and class projects.

TWIN FALLS — Residents will pay less taxes this year as growth slows in the Twin Falls School District, but school supply budgets will be cut as a result.

Trustees approved using an emergency levy Monday evening worth $659,202 to pay for expenses in the 2019-20 budget. The tax is intended to supplement the cost associated with the district’s 1% student enrollment growth this year, or about 120 more students.

A school district can unilaterally issue an emergency levy on property taxes if student enrollment increases from the previous year. The amount of money available for a district is dependent on the size of the growth.

In order to use an emergency levy, the district must account for it in the budget approved in June. Administrators projected about 2% growth this year and trustees approved an initial budget that included $1.4 million in contributions from the emergency levy, more than double the amount now available to the district.

Staff was hired based on those projections, Superintendent Brady Dickinson told the Times-News. The district will cut school supply and curriculum budgets by about 10% to offset the change.

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“In a growing district you have to anticipate how much growth you’re going to have and make sure you have adequate staff in place for the growth,” he said. “You can’t wait and see if you have that growth in September because you won’t have teachers to hire at that time.”

Dickinson said the levy is a bit of a guessing game: budget too much money and make cuts later or budget too little money and have large class sizes.

“We really try to make decisions that are least impactful to kids,” he said. “We look at areas in the budget that can be trimmed back, trying to preserve programs for kids.”

Last year, the district grew by 522 students, or about 4%, and collected $2.8 million from the emergency levy, according to documents on the district website. The $2.1 million decrease in collected taxes means residents will see a reduction in their property taxes of about $50 per $100,000 assessed value, administrators estimated.

The district must now determine if the slowed growth is part of a trend or an anomaly — it could determine how soon the district needs to build a new school. Administrators hope to wean off the emergency levy, Dickinson said, adding it was necessary in recent years to hire staff in a growing district with several new schools.

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