THOMAS — Snake River patrons have a big decision to make next Tuesday—whether to approve the proposed $900,000 supplemental levy for use in programs in the school district or not.
At Snake River, about 60 patrons attended the informational meeting about the proposed levy.
Superintendent Mark Gabrylczyk explained why the district needs a supplemental levy.
Eighty-five of the 115 school district in the State of Idaho have supplemental levies, he said.
The school district is currently paying for a bond of $17 million, said Gabrylczyk. This bond paid for improvements to each school building in the district.
Patrons are also in year five of a 10-year plant facilities levy that amounts to $500,000 each year. The plant facilities levy is used for maintenance and upkeep of the facilities.
Two years ago, voters approved transferring $375,000 of the plant facility levy for use in the general fund. This levy transfer ends this year.
Over the past five years, funding from the State of Idaho to the Snake River School District has decreased by $1,144,467.
The school district has used one-time money to balance its budget. That money came from the federal program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act State Stabilization, in school years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, as well as a Blue Cross rebate and 75 percent of the plant facility levy.
The decrease in state support was because in 2008, the state had a 30 percent decrease in its revenues, said former Idaho State Representative Dennis Lake. "The Legislature tried to keep education harmless.
"Even today, about 50 percent of the state's budget goes to public education, grades K-12," Lake said. (Post-secondary education is not funded from this 50 percent. Legislative support of post-secondary education is going down, Lake said.)
"Schools should have been adjusting," Lake said.
Lake said to get a clearer picture of how much patrons are contributing to the school district, all bond and supplemental levies need to be added together. When that happens, Snake River patrons support the district to the tune of $359 per property owner.
Blackfoot's total is $323. Aberdeen's total is high at $519. Firth's total is $188. Shelley's total is $331.
Should the supplemental levy pass, the taxable amount for each property owner would increase. This is because the the taxable valuation of property in the Snake River District is less than say, in the Blackfoot School District.
"When the [$17 million] bond was passed, there was the promise of no supplemental levy," Lake said.
"These are different times," Gabrylczyk said.
The proposed $900,000 supplemental levy would be used for programs to help students, said Gabrylczyk.
These programs include:
° Pathways to Scholarship Program. $25,000 worth of books have been donated. The school district paid the postage. Cost $1,000.
° Auto-Cad Idaho State University. ISU would provide an instructor.
° a possible grant from Basic American Foods.
° Summer School Ag Program.
° Update technology for K-8.
° Subsidized Dual Enrollment Courses through the College of Southern Idaho.
° Increase opportunities fort students in medical/science fields with the focus on agriculture, medicine and manufacturing.
If the supplemental levy does not pass, the superintendent said the school district would provide basic education. If able to pay for it, co-curricula programs would be added—music, band, art, CNA—followed by extracurricular activities.
"Do we want a school that doesn't have those options for our kids?" asks Arynne Hoge. "Programs cost money."
The possibility of asking voters to move money from the plant supplemental levy was suggested.
What about consolidation? one patron asked.
Someone asked if there was a savings when the district went from five school days to to four each week.
"The big savings was in transportation," district business manager Chris Nelson said. "We've saved $150,000 in transportation costs going to four days.
"We are educating our kids to go out and be leaders," said one patron.
"Kids have to be engaged," said one teacher. "What may be considered a frivolous program by one person may be the thing that is that kid's passion."
To vote on the supplemental levy, polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
To vote, go to your regular polling places.