A request for investment in security, maintenance of schools
Yellow spray paint surrounds large, jagged potholes in the Lake City High School parking lot.
“Once you start getting cracks, they get worse and worse,” said Coeur d’Alene School District Director of Operations Jeff Voeller.
At Fernan STEM Academy, window sills are warped, handwashing sinks are disintegrating and cooling towers are crumbling.
“There are definitely health and safety issues here,” district spokesman Scott Maben said.
Crumbling sidewalks, rotting ramps, torn carpets, dilapidated heating systems, and entrances and schoolyards that need increased security are among the many issues the district hopes to address with the tax funding. school facilities which will be submitted to voters on August 30.
If this levy is accepted at the ballot box, it would allow the district to collect up to $8 million a year for 10 years. If the full amount is not needed in any given year, less than $8 million will be taken.
The district has 40 buildings spread across 17 school campuses and four operational facilities. These facilities are on average 30 years old.
The deferred maintenance backlog for these facilities exceeds $25 million. Without a dedicated and sufficient funding source, deferred maintenance costs will snowball, reaching $68 million within five years and exceeding $101 million within 10 years.
About 25% of the levy funding will go to safety, security and technology projects, while 75% will go to the backlog of needed repairs.
By making this investment now, the district hopes to save millions of dollars in taxes over the long term.
“If we had this drawdown stream of up to $8 million a year, you’d avoid the temporary patchwork approach,” Maben said. “You’re going to fix what really needs to be fixed and replace what really needs to be replaced. It’s a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars over time.”
From a student perspective, Dylan Jones, an incoming senior at Coeur d’Alene High School, said this tax will solve problems at his school and others that will allow students to be their best every day.
“I constantly hear complaints about our heating and air conditioning,” he said. “There are many rooms that lack the proper heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to keep students comfortable in the classroom without having to constantly worry about the temperature. The air system in our schools, I think, has been the biggest problem over the years that this levy can really do a good job of solving.”
The aesthetics of deteriorating schools also impact students in the district.
“Our interior is outdated and bland,” said Dylan, who serves as the district’s student advisory group chair. “I think if we make our schools look dynamic, the culture and the spirit of the students can change as well.”
He said that in the grand scheme of things, he sees no downside to improving the learning environment for students.
“I would much rather come to school and get into a great facility that is well maintained and organized,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not just for looks, but for the students.”
Based on the growth in value of all taxable properties in the Coeur d’Alene School District, district officials anticipate that this levy will have a tax rate of $31 per $100,000 of taxable value, or about $0.31 per $1,000.
Maben explained that the ballot wording that voters will see is based on the total property assessment for 2021-22, rather than what is projected for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
“The wording of the ballot indicates that the tax rate for the proposed levy will be $50.03 per $100,000 of assessed value, or $0.50 per $1,000,” he said. “We do know, however, that our tax rate is being lowered by the growth in residential and commercial development here, and by the growth in assessed property values. This is how we can say that the effective tax rate for the levy will be approximately $0.31 per $1,000.”
The overall tax rate for the Coeur d’Alene School District, which includes its two-year operating tax and school construction bond, is currently $1.56 per $1,000.
“This overall rate is expected to decline further for the coming tax year,” Maben said. “Even with the approval of our security and maintenance tax in August, our overall rate is expected to drop to around $1.30 per $1,000 next year. That’s down from a rate of 2 $.38 per $1,000 in 2016. Our rate has steadily declined, again due to growth.”
Additionally, the homeowner’s exemption in Idaho has increased from $100,000 to $125,000 in 2021, which is good news for taxpayers. This means, for example, if a home is assessed at $500,000 and the $125,000 exemption is subtracted, the assessed value is $375,000. At 31 cents per $1,000, this tax would cost the homeowner $116.25 per year and less than $10 per month.
The online voter registration deadline for the Aug. 30 election is midnight Friday. Paper applications must be postmarked no later than Friday. The deadline to request a postal vote is August 19.
Visit cdaschools.org/levy for details.