It’s going to be a crowded November ballot in western Ada County with government agencies that want a piece of your property tax dollars.
West Ada School District trustees agreed Thursday evening to put a renewal of the district’s two-year, $14 million-a-year supplemental levy before voters on Nov. 3 to help pay for teachers and instruction days. The cost: West Ada’s combined tax rates for levies and school construction bonds will remain at $399 per $100,000 of taxable value. What that does to your property tax bill depends on whether the value of your home rises.
On the same ballot:
• The Meridian Library wants $12 million to build two branches, one in south Meridian and one in north Meridian. The construction bond would add $12.43 per $100,000 of taxable value for 20 years.
• The Western Ada Recreation District is seeking a $16 million bond to build two aquatic centers, one at the south Meridian Treasure Valley YMCA and one in north Meridian. Costs of that bond for property owners were not immediately available.
Besides the supplemental levy, West Ada trustees also approved an emergency levy of $3.1 million to cover enrollment growth of 950 students in the district this year. The cost to taxpayers will be $20.87 per $100,000 of taxable value.
All these measures and possible tax increases make some West Ada trustees wonder whether their renewed supplemental could be swept up in a rejection of bonds and levies by overwhelmed voters.
“I think that’s a distinct possibility,” said Trustee Julie Madsen.
West Ada’s existing supplemental levy pays for nine instructional days and more than 40 teachers. Funding for those days and positions was lost as the state cut education money during the Great Recession.
Voters have approved the $14 million annual levy twice, in 2012 and 2014.
Trustees say they also want the money to go for hiring additional teachers to help lessen crowded classrooms, although it was unclear what would be cut from current expenditures to make that possible. The district now hires 63 fewer teachers than the approximately 1,800 the state allows because it can’t afford to pay for them.
Trustees also said that if the Legislature comes through with more dollars in the second year of the levy, they want to reduce the amount taxpayers will be asked to contribute.
Taxpayers “don’t want to wonder what their taxes are going to look like,” Madsen said.
Trustees reiterated that they need the levy because Idaho lawmakers have not made education whole after the recession. Districts say they are still lacking money needed to run schools’ day-to-day operations.
West Ada’s trustees said the best path for success in the coming election will be for the school board to be transparent with voters about what is at stake if the measures fails — the potential loss of teachers and training. They say they must be up front that the district can’t ensure their property taxes won’t increase, just that the district won’t ask for a raise in the tax rate.