The West Ada School District's funding source to maintain buildings and buy future school sites expires this year, and voters will choose on March 14 whether or not to renew it.

The district has used this funding source, called the plant facility levy, for the past 45 years. Voters first approved it in 1972 and have renewed it every decade since

The proposed levy on the March 14 ballot would allow the district to collect up to $16 million a year in property taxes for 10 years, the maximum lifespan of the levy. 

The proposed levy is $4 million lower than the levy voters approved in 2007, which expires this year. The current levy authorizes the district to collect up to $20 million a year. On average, over the past decade, the district has collected $15 million a year from the plant facility levy.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR TAXPAYERS

The plant facility levy makes up about one-fourth of the revenue West Ada collects through local property tax levies

For example, a property owner in the West Ada School District who owns $100,000 of taxable property value will pay about $402 this year to the school district for the supplemental, emergency, tort, plant facility and bond levies. 

Of that $402, about $119 goes toward the plant facility levy for the 2016-17 school year, according to the Idaho State Department of Education.

Based on current property values, the proposed plant facility levy of $16 million per year would cost taxpayers about $94 per $100,000 of taxable property tax value.

The district is asking for a lower amount this time because it won't use the revenue for new construction, as it has done in the past. Moving forward, the district will instead rely on passing bonds to pay for new construction. That shows voters that the district isn’t trying to get around the two-thirds majority requirement, West Ada spokesman Eric Exline said last month.

A bond requires a higher threshold of voter support to pass than the plant facility levy does. A bond needs about 66.7 percent of votes to pass; the plant facility levy only needs 60 percent.

BUDGET

The West Ada School District's budget for capital expenses this fiscal year is $24 million. That includes:

  • $11.7 million for maintenance
  • $7 million for major construction
  • $3.5 million for technology
  • $1.7 million for equipment

About half of the district's maintenance budget goes toward roofs and blacktop. The rest is used for improvements such as painting, upgrading electrical systems and repairing floors and ceilings.

WHERE THE MONEY WOULD GO

If voters renew the plant facility levy, the revenue would go toward:

Building maintenance:

The school district maintains 4.4 million square feet of building space in 56 facilities across western Ada County. Taxpayers have invested almost $455 million into the construction of these facilities over the years, according to the district.

Future school sites:

The district plans to build an estimated 10 more schools by 2028. It owns five elementary sites and four secondary school sites.

Over the next decade, the district anticipates that it will need to acquire three more high school sites, three more middle school sites and at least two more elementary school sites.

Elementary sites of 8 to 10 acres are sometimes donated by home developers. Middle school sites of about 30 acres and high school sites of about 55 acres, however, are more difficult to obtain through donations, according to the district, which is why the district is seeking to buy land before development moves in.

Potential capital projects:

Below is a list from the West Ada School District of potential uses for the plant facility levy over the next 10 years:

Renaissance High School classroom additions

As Renaissance High has grown to a capacity of 800 students, the school has outgrown the initial classrooms in the former Jabil Manufacturing facility. Undeveloped space in the facility is still available for classroom space.

Spalding Elementary and Pioneer Elementary gymnasiums

Since becoming schools of choice over the last decade, both Spalding and Pioneer Elementary schools regularly operate with more than 700 students. Unlike the elementary schools built today, which have both a cafeteria and a gymnasium, these two schools have the gym and cafeteria in a single, shared facility. This space limitation makes scheduling all students for physical education difficult, an issue that could be solved by adding a gym to each of these two schools.

Meridian High School auditorium

The Meridian High School remodel has increased the school’s capacity to 2,400 students, but the auditorium seats only 125. The auditorium could be expanded to 600 seats using space on the campus that's not in use.

Eagle High and Rocky Mountain artificial turf

The turf at Eagle High was originally paid for by the school’s booster groups 10 years ago. Like other capital assets donated by parent groups, the ongoing maintenance becomes the responsibility of the school district.

A group of parents presented a case to the board of trustees demonstrating that turf is a more efficient use of resources than maintaining grass fields because of the increase in the number of students who can use the field, including students in band, physical education and other sports.

Eagle's turf needs to be replaced this summer, and Rocky's will need to be replaced over the next decade.

Star Elementary Cafeteria

Star Elementary’s cafeteria and gymnasium, built in 1959, have not been updated to serve the increase in students. The district is looking to update and expand the gym and kitchen and connect that building to the main school.

Meridian Middle School cafeteria

Meridian Middle School’s cafeteria is part of the school’s original building that existed before the major school fire in the 1990s. While that damage was rebuilt, the original cafeteria remained and is now aging and inadequate in size. The building is free-standing, providing an opportunity to remodel or replace it.

ELECTION

West Ada's plant facility levy request will go before voters on March 14.

Other measures on the ballot in Ada County will be:

  • Boise School District: $172.5 million general obligation school bond over 20 years
  • Kuna Joint School District: $40 million general obligation school bond over 20 years
  • Kuna Joint School District: $5 million supplemental maintenance and operations levy over two years

The state holds four election dates throughout the year in March, May, August and November. The March and August dates are reserved for school funding measures and recalls, if necessary, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Find your polling place at adacounty.id.gov/elections.

DISTRICT-FUNDED MAILERS

The West Ada School District spent about $16,000 this year to send out election-related mailers to almost 75,000 addresses, district spokesman Eric Exline said.

Exline said the mailers did not breach the rule in Idaho that public dollars can't be used to influence elections. West Ada's mailers, he said, provide straight-forward information about the election and proposed levy without trying to sway voters' opinions.

Exline said the district's legal counsel advised him to limit the information in the mailer to an explanation of what the levy is for, how much revenue it will generate, how that revenue will be used, and when the election will take place.

"The complaint I get isn’t about the content, but rather the big complaint is from voters who think that the school district is trying to keep the election a secret," Exline said in an email. "That’s why we send a mailer to every address in West Ada."

The Boise School District also sent out mailers about its bond proposal that will be on the March 14 ballot. The district spent $11,400 on fliers and mailers sent to 28,782 households, Idaho Education News reports. District spokesman Dan Hollar told Idaho Ed News that the mailer follows the law and standard practice.

The Idaho Attorney General's Office issued a legal guideline in 1997 stating that public funds — or “moneys belonging to the government” — should not be used to support or oppose candidates or election issues. The Idaho Supreme Court confirmed this stance in a 2005 ruling.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.