SANDPOINT — A bill was killed in the Idaho Senate earlier this year that would have changed the rules for school district’s seeking a permanent option for maintenance and operations supplemental levies.
With an expectation that the bill will be reintroduced in 2020, Lake Pend Oreille School District officials are weighing their options, as it may be their last chance to go out for a permanent supplemental override.
“Administratively, we have not come before the board to make a recommendation to run an indefinite term levy,” Lisa Hals, LPOSD chief financial and operations officer, told trustees during Tuesday’s board meeting. “This is the first time we are doing that.”
In March, voters approved a $25.4 million, two-year maintenance and operations supplemental levy for LPOSD. To qualify for a permanent levy, districts must have a supplemental levy in place for seven consecutive years, and it must represent 20 or more percent of the district’s general fund revenue. LPOSD has met the qualifications for the past five years, Hals said.
Of the 114 eligible school districts in the state, 91 have a supplemental levy in place. Of those, five have a permanent supplemental levy. The bill that is expected to reappear in the next legislative session would replace the permanent option, though districts with a permanent supplemental override already in place would be grandfathered. In its place, school districts that have passed a levy for a minimum of seven consecutive years would have been able to place a measure on the ballot to extend the levy for three to 10 years. They would still have the option to run one- or two-year levies as well.
While no decision was made and no action taken, board members discussed the pros and cons of asking voters to make the current levy permanent in November, as recommended by administration. One of the first questions — why November?
There were a number of answers to the question, including the fact that if the legislation does pass next year, March or possibly May would be the last chance to have the permanency on the ballot. Superintendent Shawn Woodward also said administration feels they would be ready to run it in November, and have actually been criticized in the past for not running the levies in the fall. More voters tend to cast their ballots during November elections.
“The real crux of the matter is this levy is no longer a supplemental levy — it is an essential levy,” said board chairman Cary Kelly. “When we get to the point where it is 37 percent of our budget, we need to do something. Think of what would happen if that didn’t pass ... it would be disastrous.”
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