Emergency property tax levies were approved Friday in two Kootenai County school districts to accommodate rising student attendance.
Trustees on school boards in the Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland districts decided to exercise elective taxing authority granted under state law that allows boards in growing districts to seek property tax relief at the start of each school year, without voter approval.
The funds are to cover the costs of educating additional students for whom the district is not yet receiving a state appropriation. Emergency levy eligibility is determined by comparing the average daily attendance of the first three days of school with the previous year’s numbers.
COEUR D’ALENE SCHOOLS
The average daily attendance for the first three days of school in Coeur d’Alene increased by 85 students, making the school district eligible to collect an additional $448,800 in local property taxes.
Coeur d’Alene school trustees voted unanimously to levy the full amount
“For me, it’s an easy decision this year,” said trustee Lisa May.
The emergency levy is not expected to increase school taxes for property owners in the Coeur d’Alene district. School officials said property taxes are projected to decrease in the Coeur d’Alene district, which comprises Coeur d’Alene and Hayden, due to an 11 percent hike in the market value of properties within district boundaries. For the owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000, a projected tax decrease of $18.45 will drop to $12.13 due to the emergency levy.
"We’re glad and excited that we can provide more support for our kids, but also, we’ll be focusing these additional funds on directly impacting the students in our schools,” said Coeur d'Alene Superintendent Steve Cook.
The majority of the funds will be spent on additional personnel to help meet the needs of these additional students, Cook said.
“We are busting at the seams across all of our elementary schools. Some of our classes are well above the numbers we would consider effective class ratios, so our intent would be to hire additional staff,” he said.
May said she’s willing to do what’s necessary to retain staff and support teachers and students, “especially in light that our levy rate will go down.”
Trustees in the Lakeland School District approved an emergency levy of $732,676, the full amount the district is eligible to collect with an influx of 137 more new students during the first three days of school compared to last year.
Lakeland Superintendent Becky Meyer said her district will use the funds to pay for three additional teachers, four education assistants and for increases in hours for current staff, and to likely add additional staff once student attendance changes stabilize.
"The emergency levy will also support additional technology purchases and curricular material purchases needed for the increased numbers," she said. "Teachers are being added to Betty Kiefer, Garwood Elementary and Athol Elementary."
The owner of a property with a taxable value of $250,000 is estimated to see a school tax hike of $59.42 with the emergency levy.
“It is also important to note our total estimated tax rate — when compared to last year — will still go down from $4.54 per $1,000 of property value to $4.21 per $1,000,” she said. “For a $250,000 resident, this is an annual reduction of $83.16.”
POST FALLS SCHOOLS
The Post Falls district also has 137 more students attending school than it did last year, making it eligible for a tax levy, but school officials are not considering an emergency levy.
"While we could use some additional revenue to help mitigate some costs associated with this year’s enrollment growth of about 2 percent, we also have to consider the impact of approving an emergency levy in a year that we may be running a bond levy election for facilities and a supplemental levy," Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane told The Press.