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School supplemental levies increase

An all-day kindergarten class in the Coeur d’Alene School District. At $15 million, Coeur d’Alene is collecting the largest voter-approved supplemental property tax levy in Idaho for 2015-16.

An all-day kindergarten class in the Coeur d’Alene School District. At $15 million, Coeur d’Alene is collecting the largest voter-approved supplemental property tax levy in Idaho for 2015-16.

Idaho’s supplemental levy bill has grown even as state K-12 funding has increased.

The 2015 Legislature approved a $1.48 billion K-12 budget for 2015-16, a $101 million increase. With this year’s budget, legislators finally exceeded the K-12 spending plan approved in 2008, at the onset of the Great Recession.

But despite this year’s spending increase, schools face continued funding challenges. For one thing, Idaho’s K-12 enrollment has grown by 20,000 students since 2008. For another thing, school districts are still hampered by cuts in state discretionary funding. Also known as operational spending, the discretionary dollars are as versatile a revenue source as a supplemental levy. Districts can use discretionary spending to finance a variety of school needs, from teacher salaries and benefits to utility costs and school supplies.

The 2015-16 state budget boosted discretionary funding to $23,868 per classroom, still below the pre-recession level of $25,696 per classroom.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s 2016-17 budget proposes restoring the discretionary spending to $25,696 per classroom. Gov. D.L. “Butch” Otter has not said whether he supports this proposal — but the governor will release his budget proposal on Jan. 11, when he opens the 2016 legislative session with his State of the State address.

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