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$400,000 emergency fund levy for School District 25

People in Pocatello and Chubbuck are going to see a rise in their property taxes to help School District 25.

An increase in students has resulted in the school district passing an emergency levy for more than $400,000.

Superintendent Mary Vagner said the school board did not make this decision lightly. In fact, the school board has had the opportunity to do this the past few years, but members didn’t because they knew people were struggling.

Now they are out of options, and have approved a levy to bring in $441,354.

“We took the first three to four days of school and did a comparison with average daily attendance,” said Vagner. “Our numbers are up over 100 children from last year.”

We hear all the time that schools are strapped for cash. One of the main factors of the money shortage stems from a 2006 Idaho State Legislature decision by recommendation of Gov. Jim Risch.

The legislature switched the money source for education from property tax to sales tax. When the recession hit, there were fewer dollars coming in from the sales tax, so School District 25 started making drastic cuts, including a 5 percent pay decrease for all teachers.

That pay decrease, Vagner says, along with Idaho’s low teacher wages in general, make it unappealing for new teachers to consider coming here.

With staff shortages, the burden falls to the teachers already here, and that burden will continue with a process called “buying preps from teachers.”

“It means instead of teaching four [classes] and planning for that fifth period if you’re in the high school,” Vanger said, “you would teach five and have to do your planning on your own time.”

She says teachers do not have to give up their planning period, but have been very willing to work with the school district as they try and settle into the new school year’s problems.

What kind of impact will this have on you?

“Very minimal,” Vagner said. “We weighed that as to what that tax impact would be. On a $100,000 home, it’s $14 a year.”

But those dollars will add up to give these stuffed classrooms another notch in their belt.

The board is considering using the money to meet CORE standards with technology additions. With more kids in school they need more laptops and other technology to have students take those CORE standard tests.

The superintendent said the district doesn’t take this money lightly, and is being very frugal with how and where to spend it. Vagner said the school district has made $15.5 million in cuts through wage reductions and furloughs, and that results in less training time for teachers and less instructional time for students.

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