COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene School District's general operating fund will continue to be propped up by $12.9 million in local property taxes for each of the next two years.
Voters on Tuesday passed a two-year supplemental maintenance and operations levy of $14.3 million in the first year and $12.9 million the second year.
The measure was approved by 66.2 percent of the 5,529 votes cast. There were 1,870 ballots cast opposing the levy. Passage required a simple majority, more than 50 percent of the votes.
"Because levies seem to be routine, and our community is so supportive, I hope that people don't think we take it for granted," said Superintendent Hazel Bauman. "I know our taxpayers are making sacrifices to support our schools, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart."
The bulk of the levy replaces an expiring levy passed by voters in 2011. It will provide $25.8 million for school district operations and maintenance over the course of two years, and in the first year, an additional $1.4 million for increased building safety and security.
By approving the levy, voters agreed to continue to be taxed $1.87 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value. For the average homeowner, with a $200,000 home, that translates into $222.72 per year. They have been paying this amount since 2011.
Voters also agreed to a one-year tax hike. The $1.4 million in security enhancements will raise the levy rate from $1.87 to $2.08 for one year. The owner of a $200,000 home's tax bill will go up by $24.80 for the first year of the levy only.
The funds for increased student and teacher safety represent one-time capital expenditures to shore up security in and around the district's school buildings. The decision to ask taxpayers to support the safety enhancements was made following the mass school shooting that took place in Connecticut in December.
Voter-approved supplemental levies are in place in districts throughout Idaho, and are used to fill the gaps between state funding and the cost of running school districts. They must be approved by voters every two years.
Coeur d'Alene School District voters have long supported supplemental maintenance and operations levies, passing one every other year since 1984.
The funds from these supplemental levies can only be used to support a school district's maintenance and operations costs. They cannot be used to build or make major renovations to school facilities, so districts must ask taxpayers to support other ballot measures if they need to go into debt to finance buildings.
The funds from the $32.7 million bond Coeur d'Alene voters passed last Aug. 28 can only be used on the building projects for which it was requested. No part of those funds can be used on any school operations costs.
Levy dollars pay for basic education needs no longer supported by state and federal funds; student transportation; the existing school resource officers, not including any new SROs proposed to be added; crossing guards, classroom and playground aides; additional support for high-achieving and struggling learners; computer hardware and software; and maintenance and repair of schools and district buildings.
"The substantial margin by which the levy passed shows a strong vote of confidence for the way we're educating kids in School District 271. We have a great school district," said Trustee Tom Hamilton.
The school district still faces a budget shortfall expected to be between $2 million and $3 million.
Wendell Wardell, the school district's chief operating officer, said they will know the exact amount that needs to be cut from next year's budget once they find out how much the district's state appropriation will be.