NAMPA — Skyview High School senior Jared Burton was in the school’s band room one day when the ceiling on one side of the room started leaking enough to look “like a shower.”
“I felt like I was in that ‘Jumanji’ movie,” Burton said.
Skyview High School is one of many schools within the Nampa School District in desperate need of maintenance. The district is seeking a two-year, $12,895,000-per-year supplemental levy in March as a way to pay for some of those needs.
The district’s $12 million-per-year supplemental levy failed in November by just 10 votes.
The Nampa School District’s board of trustees discussed the district’s possible next steps over several meetings, and ultimately decided in December to seek the $12.9 million levy on the March 10 ballot to accommodate additional building maintenance needs. The levy needs a simple majority to pass.
Trustee Mandy Simpson proposed seeking an additional $820,000 at the December meeting to pay for maintenance costs. She said even if the previous $12 million levy had passed, it would not have been enough to support the needs in the district.
The current $9.4 million-per-year supplemental levy, which expires June 30, delegated $450,000 per year for building maintenance. The $12 million levy sought in November would have increased that to $2.7 million per year for maintenance, and the new levy is seeking $3.5 million per year.
Other uses of the levy’s funding would go toward maintaining existing programs and services, supporting operational costs, maintaining certificated teaching positions, upgrading playgrounds, updating and maintaining technology and curriculum, and supporting an annual independent audit.
The $820,000 added to the supplemental levy would cover about five to 10 additional projects on the district’s list of priorities for building maintenance, according to the district’s executive director of operations, Peter Jurhs.
The overall funding from both years of the levy would pay for the top 46 priorities out of 82 on the list, largely including projects to replace failing infrastructure like HVAC, roofing and floors at individual schools.
Three schools in the district — Skyview High School, Nampa High School and East Valley Middle School — have been dealing with leaking roofs, Assistant Superintendent Gregg Russell said. A leak above the Nampa High School principal’s office damaged the ceiling tiles and caused some tiles to fall out, which have since been replaced, Russell said. Two other old buildings at the school also have leaks that have not been fixed, he said.
“We have buckets in the halls,” Russell said.
New roofing for Skyview High School, Nampa High School and East Valley Middle School is included in the top 10 priorities of the Nampa School District’s building maintenance needs.
Some of the maintenance issues are due to aging structures, Jurhs said. Nampa High School, for example, is one of the oldest schools in the district, with the oldest of the school’s buildings built in 1956. But others are not as old. Skyview High School opened in 1995, and East Valley Middle School opened in 2003.
“The construction and quality just hasn’t lasted quite as long,” Russell said.
At Skyview, Scott Beets, the school’s theater teacher and track coach, said the staff and students have to work with outdated technology and equipment that’s more than 20 years old. The auditorium’s lights are so dim that he said he has to turn on the stage lights for the students to be able to read, which racks up the school’s electricity bill. He said the 22-year-old auditorium is in need of a “major overhaul,” and has not received any significant renovations since it was built.
Skyview’s marching band, which has grown from about 60 students to 135 over the last 10 years, has run out of enough uniforms for every student, so Burton, a senior, said the band borrows uniforms from other schools for their performances. New band uniforms for Skyview is included in the levy’s funding allocation.
The school’s track has a “sinkhole” in one of the lanes, Beets said, and some of the safety equipment used in track meets are not up to par. Both of these issues are major safety concerns, he said, and Russell said there are other safety concerns to do with building maintenance at other Nampa schools.
More than $3.9 million of the levy would pay for staff salaries and current programs. That money would pay for about 36 teachers’ salaries, Russell said. District spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck said levy funding also pays for nine administrative salaries.
Without that money, Russell said the district would work to avoid layoffs, and would seek out more creative ways to make up the difference, such as consolidating classes.
For Burton, he’s already noticed increased class sizes at Skyview. Each of his Advanced Placement or other college courses are completely packed, and he said some of the classrooms don’t have enough desks to fit all the students. He said this has an impact on the quality of his education, because his teachers can’t spare as much time to work with each of their students one-on-one with such large class sizes, even if they try their best to help as many students as they can.
Between increasing class sizes and outdated equipment, Beets, the teacher and coach, said the lack of funding could have a long-term impact on students’ careers. For Burton, who wants to pursue a career in theater technology or film/television arts, the lighting technology at Skyview is so old, Beets said it’s not even worth teaching the students. So when Burton goes to college, Beets said he will have to work harder to catch up to the level of other students who came from districts that had the money to pay for more modern equipment.
“He’s going to be a little bit behind,” Beets said.
A large chunk of the levy funding — about $3.8 million per year — would pay for curriculum and technology. Russell said the school district pays for curriculum for specific subjects, which basically lays out lesson plans and ensures teachers are on the same page districtwide. He said this helps keep the district running smoothly, and aids in teacher training.
Jurhs, director of operations, said the levy also helps pay for activity busing, which transports students who participate in extra curricular activities and other groups to competitions and events. Without the funding from the levy, Jurhs said the district would likely have to increase student fees for the busing.
Russell said district officials are working to resist implementing a pay-to-play program, in which students would be required to pay a fee to participate in programs. About 10% of the district’s 14,000 students qualify as homeless, and even more come from low-income families, so Russell said a pay-to-play program would likely create some equity issues.
Burton, who is a part of Skyview’s theater club, marching band and choir, already has to pay a $150 fee to participate in the band. If he had to pay to be in all of the groups, he said he would likely have to quit at least one.
Many of Skyview’s students participate in at least one extra curricular, Beets said. But a large portion of the students come from low-income homes, so a pay-to-play program would likely lead to a drop in participation, he said.
Nampa School District’s overall 2019-2020 budget is about $152 million, which is largely funded through state and federal dollars.
Of that budget, roughly $25 million is generated through the district’s local property tax levies:
- $15.5 million levied to pay back voter-approved bonds for school construction and other capital costs.
- $9.4 million levied for the two-year voter-approved supplemental levy, which expires in June.
- $340,132 levied for tort insurance, a common source of insurance for school districts, Russell said.
If the proposed $12.9 million supplemental levy passes in March, it will take the place of the $9.4 million supplemental levy. If the new supplemental levy passes, the district plans to lower its annual bond payments to avoid a tax hike.
The district was originally planning to collect $10 million in property taxes for its bond payments in 2020-21. But at the school board’s December meeting, trustee Simpson suggested the district lower its general bond collection from $10 million to $8 million to balance out the higher supplemental levy amount and keep the tax rate low.
The district’s current tax levy rate is $399 per $100,000 of taxable property value.
The proposed levy rate, including the $12.9 million levy and the lowered collection of $8 million for bond payments, would be $335 per $100,000 of taxable value.
“We really are asking for less,” Russell said.
The district’s upcoming bond payment for 2020-21 is set at $11 million. Russell said the district will come up with the additional $3 million not collected from taxpayers by taking from the district’s reserves.
If voters do not pass the $12.9 million supplemental levy, the district’s property tax levy rate would be $133 per $100,000 of taxable value, which would go toward the bond payments and tort insurance.
Jurhs said people can visit nampa.school/calc to enter their property value and see how much the supplemental levy will impact their property taxes.
According to an online survey that saw 110 responses, the most common reasons voters did not support the levy was that they were not clear on how the funding would be spent, they were concerned it would raise taxes too high, they didn’t have students in the district, or they believed it would pass without their vote. Before November, voters had supported each of the district’s supplemental levies since 2009.
Russell said the district is planning to improve communication to voters to explain why the district needs the levy, and where the money will go.
Beets said parents of students are generally supportive of the levy, because they understand the need for additional funding. The challenge is getting through to voters who aren’t exposed to the district and don’t see the need that’s there. He said people see that Skyview has equipment, but don’t realize that their equipment needs updating.
District officials hope to make it clear to voters that the majority of funding from the levy won’t go toward new items. It will mainly support fixing existing problems and pay to maintain current resources and positions.
“The supplemental levy isn’t supplemental,” Russell said. “It’s critical to what we do.”