TWIN FALLS — In March voters will decide whether to renew a supplemental levy that would generate $5.75 million a year for the Twin Falls School District.
During its meeting on Monday, the district’s school board approved language for the measure, which will appear on the March 9 ballot. The school board previously authorized the district to pursue the levy during its Oct. 28 meeting.
District Superintendent Brady Dickinson said the funds generated through this levy make up about nearly 9 percent of the district’s annual operating expenses, making it essential to the district.
“Without the levy, we’d have to make some pretty deep cuts,” Dickinson said.
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The district cut about $2 million from its budget earlier this year to make up for a financial shortfall. Dickinson said if the levy were to pass, the district would use some of the funds to fill classified employee positions, such as custodians and secretaries, which were eliminated as part of the cuts.
The district made these cuts after receiving less money from the state than it had projected due to a slight dip in daily student attendance, which factors into the state’s school funding formula.
Most school districts throughout the state have become reliant on supplemental levies as key sources of revenue since 2009, when the economic recession led to reductions in state funding for education. During the 2018-19 Fiscal Year, 93 school districts in the state received about $202.2 million through these levies, according to data from the Idaho State Board of Education Over the years, the State Legislature has increased its funding for public education, but not enough, Dickinson said.
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“When adjusted for inflation, we’re just kind of getting back to where we were in 2009,” Dickinson said.
These supplemental levies are set for specific amounts and last for two years. Voters most recently approved a $5 million supplemental levy for the district in March 2019, with nearly 68 percent of voters casting ballots in favor of the measure.
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With that levy set to expire next year, the district is requesting voters renew the measure at an amount that would generate an additional $750,000 a year. Dickinson said that despite the increase in the levy amount, property owners will see a decrease in the amount of taxes they pay to the district.
In the summer, the district refinanced some of its bonds from a 2014 bond levy that voters approved so the district could build new schools. Through this refinancing the district was able to reduce its interest rate on this bond debt and save taxpayers nearly $13.7 million, Dickinson said.
Because of this savings, the district will be able to lower the overall levy rate property owners pay from $4.28 per $1,000 of taxable property value to $3.56 per $1,000 of taxable property value, if the levy passes.
“We really see it as a win-win,” Dickinson said. “We’re reducing taxes and at the same time, we’re generating additional funds for our schools.”