Why I am supporting our 2022 school levies and bonds
This year the Caldwell and Vallivue School Districts have proposed supplemental levies and the Vallivue School District has proposed a bond for two new elementary schools. Here are six reasons why I'm supporting our school districts this March 8th.
1. Our legislature underfunds our schools
The Idaho legislature's investment in education per student is the lowest in the nation. As a result of the legislature's lack of support for education, 89 of our 115 school districts rely on supplemental levies. For the 2021-2022 school year, school districts across the state collected $218.2 million in supplemental levies through property taxes.
Earlier this year, instead of investing in education, the legislature approved a $350 million tax giveaway and cut taxes $250 million going forward.
2. Our legislature does not provide any funding for new school buildings and provides very little for building maintenance
Idaho funds new school buildings through bonds that are approved by the voters and are paid for through our property taxes. Even when the legislature has hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus, as they have the last two years, they do not help build new schools.
This hits school districts that are growing fast like Vallivue particularly hard. Vallivue has seven elementary schools and four of them are over capacity. They have 46 classrooms in temporary portable buildings. AND over 12,000 new homes in the Vallivue district have been permitted for construction.
A new report shows that Idaho is way behind in school building maintenance. The report states that the schools responding to their survey need an estimated $847 million to get their schools into "good" condition. The legislature allots only $31.6 million in lottery money and $1.1 million from the general fund per year for building maintenance.
3. The legislature does not allow school districts to collect impact fees from new construction
Impact fees are collected by cities and counties from developers when they are building new buildings to help pay for fire, police, parks, and streets. Currently, there is no mechanism for school districts to collect impact fees to pay for costs associated with new home construction. As a result, the school districts are forced to rely on bonds to pay for new buildings needed as a result of new construction.
The graphic below shows the problem this creates for Vallivue. Many schools are already full and there is more growth coming.
4. Schools are not to blame for the rapid increase in property taxes for homeowners
It is a common misconception that schools have something to do with the recent increases in our property taxes. In reality property taxes have skyrocketed for homeowners, because of a combination of two things. First, a bill the legislature passed in 2016 that disconnected the tax break that homeowners get (the homeowners exemption) from the fluctuations in the housing market. And second, rapidly increasing housing costs.
A homeowners exemption that isn't keeping pace with the housing market paired with rapidly increasing housing costs results in a situation where homeowners are on the hook for a larger and larger share of property taxes and people who own commercial and investment properties are on the hook for less and less.
Even if the county collects the same amount of taxes from one year to the next, if our property values go up and our tax exemption doesn't, then homeowners will owe more and commercial property owners will owe less.
In other words: under the current circumstances the city, county, and schools can collect no more money than the year before and homeowners will still see a property tax increase.
These articles also provide some helpful explanations and information:
Homeowners are paying more and more of Idaho's property taxes, Idaho State Journal, 7-25-19
5. The school districts are working hard to keep our property taxes down
The Caldwell School District has proposed levies for decades to supplement legislative funding for education. This year the levy the Caldwell School District has proposed is the same amount as it was two years ago - $4.1 million.
The Vallivue School District is growing rapidly and needs to build two new elementary schools. Their proposal this year keeps their estimated total levy rate the same as it was last year ($3.29). To see how they are keeping the same levy rate while passing a bond check out their website.
6. Our kids deserve a great education system that helps them achieve their dreams
Our kids deserve an education that makes them competitive at top colleges and competitive for the jobs of tomorrow. That means we need great facilities, teachers, and programs. Great schools require an investment and the investment is worth it.