First and foremost, the Blaine County School District is grateful to the community for supporting high expectations and safe learning environments for all our students. It is important to understand that the current plant facility levy, which expires in the 2019-20 school year, was a continuation of an existing levy, not a request for a tax increase. If a future $40 million plant facility levy is approved by voters, it will actually be a decrease from the current $60 million levy.
In 2018, the board of trustees convened a Finance Committee composed of citizens and staff members to assess BCSD’s future facility, technology and safety needs. Over the span of one year, 16 meetings and tours of all district schools and buildings, the committee made recommendations to the board of trustees. Their recommendations are based on criteria the committee deemed critical to the mission of learning and necessary to provide instruction/programs as determined by the board of trustees or Idaho learning standards.
This fall, the board of trustees took those recommendations back to the community for feedback and input. The board will discuss the public feedback at future meetings in public. Public comment is always welcome at all regular monthly meetings, which are normally held the second Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Community Campus, a campus of the BCSD.
Two key facts are critical to the discussion: 1) Approximately 60 percent of the district’s general fund budget has been frozen at the same fixed amount since the 2006 Property Tax Reform Act. 2) The state of Idaho requires BCSD to spend $1.3 million per year on maintenance and upkeep of buildings (Idaho Statute 33-1019). This represents 32.5 percent of the Finance Committee’s recommended facilities and maintenance needs for the next 10 years.
Contrary to the guest opinion in the Mountain Express on Nov. 6 (“BCSD is pulling a ‘bait and switch’), the supplemental levy approved by voters in 2018 came after three consecutive years of budget cuts at the district level that brought the district out of the red with a balanced budget—and without an increase in taxes.
A plant facility levy can only be used for facilities, safety, buses and technology, allowing the district to continue to focus general fund resources on the classroom and on educating all students in safe learning environments with low student-teacher ratios, high expectations and highly qualified teachers. Ultimately, it is up to the community to decide how to fund public education in Blaine County.
GwenCarol Holmes, BCSD superintendent
Bryan Fletcher, BCSD business manager