The Twin Falls School District is very appreciative of the support of our community. We have worked hard to be responsive to taxpayers who have entrusted us with their scarce resources. The decision of whether or not to run a supplemental levy is never taken lightly and I appreciate the community’s willingness to participate in this important process.
As the Superintendent of the Twin Falls School District, I have concerns about HB393. This bill would limit when school districts can run supplemental levies to specific dates in May and November. Currently, we are able to utilize four specific dates in March, May, August, and November. These dates were negotiated during elections consolidation. Before that, a taxing district could run an election pretty much at any time. I am most concerned with the removal of the March date due to the timeline school districts use to set their budgets.
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School districts operate on a fiscal year that starts each year on July 1st and ends on June 30th. Under the proposed bill, levy elections could only be run in November and May. Both of these dates create challenges. The legislature sets the tone for education funding in January and February. If we were to pursue a supplemental levy in November, it would be without information about how funding might change from the state level. On the other hand, May is challenging as it is just before our budget must be set for the following year. Running levy elections in March allows districts time to understand upcoming budget needs and provides time after the election (whether it passes or fails) to formalize the budget for the upcoming fiscal year before it begins in July.
Much of the concern seems to revolve around the notion that school districts are running levies multiple times a year. This is actually a rare occurrence. That said, because communities rely on supplemental levies to provide students with a wide variety of opportunities, locally-elected school board trustees sometimes choose to pursue a new ballot measure after a previous levy has failed. These levies are put forward by school boards, often with modifications, after weighing the pros and cons of this decision. Leaving this decision in the hands of locally-elected school trustees provides the local control so important to Idaho citizens.
In the Twin Falls School District, we utilize a group of community members called the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) to evaluate and recommend the need for and timing of levies. They have consistently utilized the March election date for the reasons listed above. We recognize a levy is an important community decision and work hard to ensure our community has as much information as possible while still providing time in case changes need to be made. Reducing the number of dates from the four current dates is not necessary, takes away local control, and is not in line with the budgetary timeline.
Brady Dickinson is the Superintendent of Schools in the Twin Falls School District.