Advocacy group plans to protest emergency levy in District 93
Devin Bodkin and Kevin Richert, IdahoEdNews.org
IDAHO FALLS — Bonneville Joint School District 93 is facing backlash after recently approving a $2 million emergency levy.
Trustees approved the levy during their Aug. 28 board meeting — one day after voters rejected a $42 million bond issue to build a new elementary school and bankroll upgrades at Bonneville and Hillcrest high schools. Unlike bond issues and supplemental school levies, emergency levies do not require voter approval. Districts such as Bonneville can collect emergency levies to cover the costs that come with enrollment increases.
Emergency levies are nothing new for Bonneville. The district has set an emergency levy every year for the past decade, collecting nearly $13.3 million.
But $2 million is larger than any emergency levy Bonneville has collected over the past 10 years. Administrators say an average daily attendance increase of 384 students justified the levy. Bonneville will use this year’s emergency levy dollars for teacher salaries and benefits, classroom overflow aides and instructional materials, Business Manager Guy Wangsgard said.
D93 Citizens, a local group that opposed last month’s bond issue, said the levy is emblematic of a larger problem.
“We are sick and tired of being the most highly taxed large school district in Idaho, especially when we have so many new homes paying more property taxes than ever before,” D93 Citizens spokeswoman Halli Stone wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Bonneville is one of Idaho’s fastest growing districts. Yet with around 13,000 students, securing local funds for structural upgrades has been a struggle. Due largely to its still-developing tax base, Bonneville generates less local revenue than other districts its size. As a result, patrons pay one of the highest levy rates in Idaho.
In response to the emergency levy, D93 Citizens will hold a rally outside before the school board’s meeting Wednesday night. Stone called on patrons to meet outside the district at 6:30 p.m., then move into district offices, at 3497 N. Ammon Road, for the 7 p.m. meeting.
“Such utter contempt and total disregard for taxpayers will not go unnoticed nor unanswered,” Stone wrote.
Bonneville Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the planned rally. Last week, he emphasized two ways the district is trying to reduce its financial burden on taxpayers:
- Bonneville was eligible for a $2,046,720 emergency levy, but the district chose to keep the amount at $2 million.
- The district will hold off on replacing its recently retired deputy superintendent in order to pay for a secretive payout of more than $191,000 to its former outgoing superintendent.
Elsewhere in eastern Idaho
Here’s the rundown of emergency levies elsewhere in eastern Idaho:
Jefferson County: $861,814. The district has added 288 students, nearly a 5 percent increase. The East Idaho district will use its emergency levy to add 10 teachers, hire support staff and purchase materials to handle the growth, Superintendent Chad Martin said.
Madison: $770,000. The East Idaho district will use the money to buy textbooks, supplies, computers, chairs and desks to accommodate an additional 151 students, Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas said.
Madison’s enrollment reached a record 5,371 students.
Teton County: $248,892. The district has added 42 students, business manager Blake Snedaker said. This represents about a 2 percent enrollment increase.
Soda Springs: $183,000. No additional information was available Wednesday.
This article was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on September 11, 2019.