The process for funding Idaho schools is complex. Each year, the Idaho Legislature decides how much state money public schools will receive. The funding formula for Idaho’s public schools is based on several factors, like the number of students enrolled adjusted for attendance, teacher salaries, teacher benefits, busing and transportation costs, and a slew of other funding categories for specific items that schools might access.
In Idaho, roughly 60% of public education costs come from the state, although this can change from year to year. According to the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, in 2010, 4% of aggregate personal income helped fund Idaho’s education system. By 2020, that number had fallen to 3%. In other words, a majority of Idaho’s school districts must rely on voter-approved supplemental or plant-facility property tax levies and bonds to backfill the local and state budget dollars to address anything from critical construction needs, infrastructure, extracurricular activities and programs, adequate staffing, or expansion of a preschool or kindergarten program.
Many Idaho communities continue to address school funding shortfalls through the use of bonds and/or levies. This year alone, 41 districts sought a combined $288.4 million in bonds and levies in March. Voters, in total, supported $134 million in requests for local funds. Voters in Canyon County approved millions of dollars in supplemental levies to support programs and funding needs in the Nampa, Caldwell and Vallivue school districts.
Find a brief snapshot of the cost of some recent voter approved supplemental levies in Canyon County and what the additional money will fund in each district below:
Nampa School District
Voters approved a two-year supplemental levy for $8 million per year. The funds will go to funding staff salaries, technology, playground equipment, building security, curriculum, and activities such as athletics, music, and performing arts.
Caldwell School District
Voters approved a two-year supplemental levy for $4.1 million each year. Levy funds will continue to support existing programs such as, fine arts, elementary orchestra, music, STEM, and extracurricular and co-curricular activities. In addition, it will fund a school resource officer, Safe School Aids, technology, and other operational expenses.
Vallivue School District
Voters approved a two-year supplemental levy of $4.5 million per year. The funding will help maintain classroom sizes, funding safe school aids, school nurses, school resource officers and funding of extracurricular programs like athletics, band, choir, and after-school programs.
Different from supplemental levies, plant facility reserve fund levies allow school district to collect property tax monies to maintain their facilities including HVAC systems, parking lots and sidewalks, roof repairs, and more. Different from supplemental levies, which focus on operations and additional resources, plant facility levies can only be used on the facilities within the school district. Below is a snapshot about the cost of recent voter approved plant-facility levies around Idaho:
Idaho Falls School District
Patrons in Idaho Falls recently renewed a 50-year plant facility levy for Idaho Falls, which collects $2.4 million a year for 10 years, which they will use for capital expenses such as technology, school buses, and ongoing maintenance and routine repairs to their school buildings.
Highland School District
The patrons in Highland Joint School District authorized the district to collect a five-year plant facility levy of $250,000 that will go to maintaining their hardware and infrastructure, replacing their boilers, upgrading their safety facilities, renovating their school grounds and equipment, and replacing their dilapidated or obsolete equipment and classroom furniture.
Mackay School District
Patrons in Mackay – which covers both Custer and Butte counties – recently approved a five-year levy of $748,664 to support paying for lighting, heating, updated ventilation, and sanitation in their school facilities.
School districts go to great lengths – within their capacity – to ensure that they are operating their schools in a safe and productive manner without creating a huge burden on their taxpayers. Click here for a more detailed look at election results for recent bonds and levy elections and outcomes.