Boise teachers poised for rare raise

As property values rebound, 3,000 Boise educators will see their first pay increase in four years.

broberts@idahostatesman.comJune 12, 2013 

Within the teaching ranks, the minimum 1 percent raise will help ensure a well-prepared workforce as the district gets ready to launch a new, more rigorous curriculum based on problem solving and critical thinking, said Don Coberly, district superintendent.

The raise comes with an additional two days added to each teacher's work year.

The Boise district will reach into its reserve account for the $4.2 million to pay for the raises in 2013-14. But it is counting on an estimated $4.8 million from a 10 percent growth in property tax values within its borders to continue the pay bump in future years.

"Any additional funding the district receives will be invested first and foremost in those areas that further our vision to graduate each student prepared for college and career," Coberly said.

Boise school officials may also consider using some of the money to reduce the $14-million-a-year supplemental levy voters passed a year ago to cover education costs as the district faced a sharp budget drop, Coberly said. District officials only drew $12 million this year and will do the same for 2013-14.

Boise's plan for a pay raise comes as Ada County residential property values rose nearly 12 percent and commercial values went up 3 percent - the first countywide increase since the real estate market imploded in 2008. Property owners pay the first installment of their bills in December.

WHERE TAXES GO

Property tax revenues are used by the districts in a variety of ways. They pay for school construction, improvements to school buildings and some capital purchases, and to supplement state dollars for running day-to-day school district operations. All those uses of property tax dollars must be approved by voters.

Boise School District also levies an additional property tax - which doesn't require voter approval - because the district existed before Idaho was a state. That levy gets the district about $48 million a year.

Meridian School District, Idaho's largest district, expects an increase of 14 percent in the property values within its boundaries, to $12.1 billion. Officials there expect the increase to yield $6.6 million more toward maintenance and some capital purchases, to a total of $19.6 million.

BUILDING WILLOW CREEK IN MERIDIAN

Additional tax revenue will help the district accelerate its work on Willow Creek Elementary School, which will open in the fall for kindergarten through second grade. Willow Creek still needs common areas such as a gym and classrooms for grades three through five. District officials had hoped to start on the common areas this year; the additional revenue means they will begin construction on some classrooms, too, said Linda Clark, district superintendent.

Willow Creek, estimated to cost $9 million, is located near Chinden Boulevard and Linder Road in the Lochsa Falls subdivision, and is meant to ease overcrowding at nearby Paramount Elementary.

Meridian schools voters passed a levy in 2007 giving school officials authority to raise as much as $20 million a year for 10 years for maintenance and renovation.

LOOKING AHEAD

When the economy soured and property values dropped, Meridian cut the amount of money it took in from the levy to as low as $6.7 million to keep from increasing the district's overall property tax levy for construction, maintenance and some day-to-day operational expenses.

Meridian's combined rate for the three types of levies is $438 per $100,000 of taxable property value.

For a couple of years during the downturn, Meridian schools put more than half of its plant maintenance money into running school operations, further backlogging the work on school buildings.

"We are very encouraged after having gone through the economic worries of a 30 percent drop of our (property) values," Clark said.

If property values increase again next year, Meridian schools may consider a bond levy for new construction. That could include a new middle school to ease overcrowding at Lake Hazel Middle School, which has more than 1,400 students - about 400 more than it should.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408 Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

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