The Nampa School District is asking voters on Nov. 5 to approve a supplemental levy. The two-year levy would bring in just over $12 million a year to fund teacher salaries, building maintenance and security, curriculum and technology upgrades, and other needs.
The levy would replace the current $9.4 million supplemental levy that voters passed in 2017. Before that, voters passed a $7.8 million levy in 2015.
We encourage voters to check “yes” on Tuesday and approve the funding for Nampa schools.
But beyond that, what we’d really like to see is adequate state funding for school districts so that educators don’t have to do this song and dance every two years — providing brochures and making web pages about what the levy would fund, visiting community events and, in this case, our newspaper’s editorial board, to spread the information.
We appreciate the pie charts and explanations, but how much of that energy could school officials instead put toward education if they didn’t have to worry about losing a chunk of their funding every two years?
The Nampa School District is not alone in this. Most school districts in Idaho — 93 out of 115 — rely on voter-approved supplemental levies to support what they do.
It’s called “supplemental,” but there’s really nothing supplemental about this revenue, Gregg Russell, Nampa School District’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, told our board.
The district has used the past levies to upgrade curriculum — some of which was over 15 years old, leaving out updates and new research. The money went toward technology for students, including tablets and digital science curriculum that can be updated more quickly and affordably than textbooks. It gave teachers training materials so they could be prepared to meet new state standards. It allowed for the installation of security measures in school lobbies.
The district, if this levy passes next week, would finish curriculum upgrades, notably for health classes (vaping wasn’t an issue when the last health materials were published, Russell noted) and finish the technology and security upgrades the district began with past levies. The revenue would help fix aging roofs — such as the high school roof that requires buckets be placed in the hallway when it rains, Russell said. It would fund transportation for sports teams, along with instruments and uniforms, playgrounds and early childhood education.
What if the levy doesn’t pass? Russell said he likes to stay optimistic, but if it fails, the district will need to consider bringing it back before voters.
That stress and uncertainty puts a strain on educators that doesn’t need to be there. Idaho lawmakers need to address how schools are funded and implement a better system that doesn’t leave schools short — and doesn’t rely so heavily on voter-approved property tax increases for a school district to build schools, maintain buildings, and equip classrooms.
We understand homeowners are also feeling the strain of rising property taxes. The school district isn’t the only agency needing funding, and as property values rise, so do tax bills.
The Nampa School District has an increased market value and new construction to draw from, which helps distribute the burden. The district’s total market value this year is $6.4 billion, up from $4.8 billion in 2017.
Currently, the district’s total tax rate is $399 per $100,000 of taxable market value. The proposed rate for 2020, if the levy passes, is a bit lower than that, at $335 per $100,000. Part of the reason for that lower levy rate is the rising property values and new construction, broadening the tax base, and part of it stems from the district restructuring its bond payments, school board member Allison Westfall said.
A Nampa home valued at the average $210,000 currently pays $439 in taxes to the school district, Russell showed. If that home value increases to $231,000 in 2020, the tax bill will stay at $439 because of the lower levy rate. If it increases more than that, the owner will start to see a higher tax bill.
Now, yet again, this funding choice is before voters. We encourage you to support the levy, but above all we encourage the Legislature to find a better solution so school officials don’t have to go through this process and face the uncertainty in another two years.