Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Garden Valley School Certifies Emergency Levy

  During the September 11 meeting of the board of trustees of the Garden Valley School District, the board voted to use proceeds of the sale of the old school toward the construction bond.

  GV School Superintendent, Randy Schrader, says, “The old school was appraised for $195,000. We sold it for $200,000 and netted $186,000, which will be used to help make a bond payment. The construction bonds are known as uncallable bonds and cannot be paid early. One could be called early but not until 2016.”

  Posted on the school webpage is a letter from Schrader which reads, “I am pleased to share with you that the overall property taxes paid to the Garden Valley School District will be lowered this year because of actions taken by the Board of Trustees at its Sept. 11 meeting. Overall, taxpayers will save $45 this year on $100,000 of taxable property value.”

  On the other hand, the letter continues: “In other action at the meeting, the board voted to raise an additional $158,000(+), for maintenance and operation through an emergency levy. The board felt the emergency levy was necessary because the student population increased this year by 26 students, which is more than 10 percent of our population.”

  As submitted by the school board, with the tax levy rate of .00047556, it looks like taxpayers will be paying $47.56 for assessed value of $100K. A public vote is not required.

  One might ask how it is taxpayers will save $45 on $100K of taxable property value this year. Superintendent Schrader clears up the confusion: “We’re dropping the construction levy by $300K. Over the last one and a half years, people have been paying back taxes—collections have been better than average. So even with the emergency levy, taxes will drop $45 per $100K on taxable property value.”

   Mr. Schrader explains the decision to apply for the levy: “The emergency levy authority is granted to school districts by Idaho Code 33-805 when a district has enrollment growth over a ten day period this year compared to the same 10 day period last year. We have 36 new students and with an ADA increase of 27 however we only asked to certify an increase of 20 to keep the levy lower.” The District has a worksheet for taxpayer reference, good for one year. Schrader adds, “If tax collections remain at current levels, the tax levy may drop again in 2013-2014.”

  According to the superintendent, the money will be used to help in the general maintenance and operations of the district and hopefully add a staff member to be their digital learning academy coordinator. They also will use some of the money to upgrade outdated technology; however, he says none of the money will be used for staff salary increases.

  In a letter sent to county commissioners, a Garden Valley resident wrote, “I am concerned the school board is proposing to take advantage of the 33-805 legislation without a demonstrated critical financial need, thereby increasing homeowners’ tax burden without a vote of the public.

  “We expected even more money from the sale of the school and expected the taxes to drop, without the addition of a levy. While the school board request is legal, I believe it is contrary to the emergency nature envisioned by our lawmakers when enacting this legislation. A large increase in enrollment could require additional staff and facilities for a school district, but 30 more students in Garden Valley K-12 will not.”

  Finding anyone who knew about the emergency levy was difficult. GV homeowner, Ruth Richter, says, “I wasn’t informed by the school, but by a parent of a student, of the school's latest tax levy issue for ‘emergency funds’, which doesn't need voters approval, but it does seem to require certain standards that one wonders how could be justifiably approved. I don't see that the superintendent's stated ‘emergency needs’ constitute any emergency at all; how about the school and everyone else just trying to figure out their budget to the best of their ability and saying, "that's all, folks, we can't get any more and we'll have to make do.”

  Resident, Pat Marion, says, "I think it’s an excellent thing that the levy is not going to cost taxpayers anything. I have been attending board meetings regularly. The cost for busing has gone up; electricity has gone up, though Bob Grimm has done an excellent job re-working the automatic on and off buttons. The cost of the Biomass chips has gone up phenomenally.”

  Marion approves of the addition of a digital learning academy coordinator. “The program is fantastic. Students, parents and teachers can all be involved and know exactly where the student is academically. Many of the upper-level kids take college courses—at graduation, they had a lot of college credits on their transcripts. I think it’s pretty honorable for a small school like this.”

  The Idaho Code, 33-805 School Emergency Fund levy, states: Before the second Monday of September in each year, the board of trustees of any school district which qualifies under the provisions of this section may certify its need hereunder to the board of county commissioners in each county in which the district may lie, and request a school emergency fund levy upon all taxable property in the district. The law does not allow for extensions. An advertisement should be run when the school district ascertains that it will request an emergency school fund levy as provided in this section and shall be published once a week for two (2) weeks following action by the board of trustees.

  Boise County Commissioner, Jamie Anderson, responded that she was aware that the county clerk had granted an extension to the school for the certification of the levy. “This meant that we (the county commissioners) had to get an extension for our next meeting." (The extension moved the meeting to September 24.)

  Anderson continued, “It’s really not a county issue. We have to certify all levies on that date and collect taxes to pass onto the entities (districts). They haven’t presented us with anything yet, so I can’t comment. The questions are have they gone about informing the public? Are they following the procedure of the code?”

  Boise County Prosecuting Attorney, Ian Gee, said he was not currently in a position to offer comment, though he “will have to be well prepared by next Monday!” He added, “The requirements have to be complied with—Idaho Code will be followed.” 
  At the September 24 meeting of the Boise County Board of Commissioners, Jamie Anderson stated that it was now in the hands of the State Tax Commission.

  Alan Dornfest, Property Tax Policy Supervisor, Idaho State Tax Commission, responded, "My agency has a very limited role with regard to the property tax levy process. We are empowered under section 63-809, Idaho Code, only to examine what is provided to us by the county and notify various public officials if it appears to us that levies or budget increases exceed any limitation in law. In looking into these aspects of the Garden Valley School District emergency levy, we determined that they met the notification requirements. We do not find fault with the extension granted by the county in this case. Regardless, as the emergency fund levy limit is 0.0006 and the levy set by the county commissioners is 0.000520787, the school district has not exceeded the levy limit found in law.

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