Some might say the timing of School District 25’s plant facilities levy vote renewal is far less than ideal.
There’s been a lot of public outcry in recent months about high Bannock County property taxes and that storm won’t come close to subsiding before Tuesday’s District 25 10-year plant facilities levy vote, which requires support from at least 55 percent of district voters to become a reality.
This angst over high property taxes started to overflow with the 2019 countywide reassessment that caused county residents to try to recall the county’s assessor and commissioners.
Those recall efforts failed, but the animosity of many Bannock County property owners remains over what they feel are grossly inaccurate property assessments and unreasonably high property taxes — all byproducts of the 2019 reassessment.
Even School District 25 officials are feeling uneasy about this climate as Tuesday’s vote nears and the fact that district voters have never shot down the levy in its 60-plus year history is providing increasingly cold comfort.
But it shouldn’t take anyone much soul searching to conclude that district voters shouldn’t punish the district and its students for the botched countywide reassessment.
School District 25, like pretty much every public school system in Idaho, operates on a shoestring budget. Without the funds provided by the plant facilities levy, District 25 would be in trouble and the very infrastructure of the district would be threatened.
If renewed by district voters on Tuesday, the plant facilities levy will generate over $6 million annually to enable District 25 to provide the necessary upkeep of its 22 schools, hundreds of acres of property and 29 athletic facilities.
Property owners within School District 25’s borders have been paying the levy for decades and the dollars generated by the tax have paid for things such as the Pocatello High School remodeling project, the installation of camera-equipped security systems in the district’s schools, the construction of the New Horizon Center, the renovation of Alameda Middle School and the construction of Iron Horse Stadium at Highland High School.
Countless other not as high profile projects have also been completed with levy funds. Pretty much whenever you’ve seen carpeting replaced, a heating system repaired or a fresh coat of paint applied at a District 25 school, that work was funded by the plant facilities levy.
Those who live in School District 25 have invested a lot of money in the district through the years and voting in favor of the plant facilities levy ensures that investment will be protected via necessary infrastructure upkeep and improvements.
The choice confronting District 25 residents is whether or not to vote in favor of the levy. Approving the levy would mean that property owners within the district will pay $141.62 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value during fiscal 2021-22 and 5 percent more per fiscal year until 2031-32. That’s a property tax increase of less than $14 annually per $100,000 in 2021-22 compared to the levy’s current rate of $128.45 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value.
District 25 property owners might see voting against the levy as a means of giving themselves a tax break in that a no vote would eliminate that $128.45 per $100,000 of assessed property value from their yearly property tax bills.
Levy supporters fear that such no votes are going to be largely inspired by the reassessment fiasco on the county level and that’s probably accurate.
We would encourage District 25 voters to not punish Pocatello and Chubbuck’s public schools and their students for what happened on the county level.
The more prudent move on the part of district voters would be to protect their longstanding investment in the district’s schools by approving a levy that’s been in place longer than many of us have been alive.
Those of us who call School District 25 home can all be proud that we live in a district that has well cared for buildings with all the amenities our students need.
Let’s vote yes on Tuesday and keep it that way.
Our kids deserve nothing less.