AP NEWS

Coeur d’Alene School District seeks voter backing for $20 million levy

March 7, 2019

Even if the Coeur d’Alene School District passes a two-year, $20 million levy Tuesday, many homeowners would see a lighter tax burden.

Thanks to rising property values and new construction in the city and outlying areas, the tax rate will drop 10 cents, to $2.13 per $1,000 of taxable value with passage of the levy, according to district spokesman Scott Maben.

The new levy would replace the current $16 million levy that expires this year.

Most of the additional money, about $2.5 million, would be used to increase salaries for teachers and support staff, who would see an average raise of 4.1 percent.

The rest would pay for mental health programs, increased security and larger building and supply budgets across the district.

About 22 percent of the total cost of educating students is derived from the levy, Maben said.

The bulk of the funding, $16 million, would continue to support a variety of programs, such as school resource officers and nurses, mental health programs, music and art classes and other extracurriculars and building maintenance.

“The intent of the board was that this was to have as little impact as we could on the tax burden,” said Maben, who added that even those property owners who see a 10 percent hike in their assessment would see a minimal increase in school-related taxes.

A property with an assessed value of $250,000 and a taxable value of $150,000 would see a reduction in school-related taxes, from $346 annually to about $319.

The district’s tax rate (for bonds and levies) was $2.23 per $1,000 of taxable value in 2018. The previous two years it was $2.31, and in 2015 it was $2.37.

Rates in most large districts in the state were about $4 per thousand in 2018, with Moscow and Kellogg exceeding $6 per thousand.

The Coeur d’Alene district hopes to get additional funding from the state for teacher salary increases, an issue that’s been aggravated by recent large pay hikes in the Spokane area.

“The pay gap between school districts in North Idaho and those in the Spokane area has grown considerably wider, making it difficult for Coeur d’Alene Public Schools to compete,” Maben said.

“We do know of some teachers who have departed our district for school jobs that pay a lot more. We could see more of our teachers take jobs in the Spokane area after their current-year contracts are up,” Maben added.

The levy requires a simple majority for passage. The 2018 levy received 79 percent approval.

The Coeur d’Alene levy is one of several in Tuesday’s election.

The Post Falls School District is asking for approval of a $19 million bond that would add a new elementary school and improve five other schools. The district also seeks approval of a two-year, $9.91 million levy for supplemental maintenance and operations.

The Lakeland and Plummer-Worley school districts also have levies on the ballot.