Friday, January 24, 2014

School Board approves two levies for March

By Bob Vian, School District Superintendent

The Orofino Joint School District #171 Board of Trustees voted at a special School Board meeting Jan. 14 to place two levies on the ballot for March 12, 2014.

The trustees voted to maintain the current levy request for Maintenance and Operating (M&O) of the district at $2,285,000 per year. The current levy resulted in a property tax rate of approximately $4.55 per thousand dollars of taxable property value during the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Superintendent Bob Vian asked the trustees to approve a two year M & O Levy with no increase either year. The trustees agreed to the request. The two year levy will allow the district to better plan for the future, provides more security for younger staff by providing more stable funding, allow the taxpayer to know what taxes will be in the future for their personal budgeting, and reduces the cost and number of elections by 50%.

Passage of the two year request assures taxpayers that there will not be a tax increase in locally funded operating expenses over the three years that the current and proposed levies are in effect.

The Maintenance and Operating Levy provides 28% of the district’s operating budget.

The board of trustees also supported Superintendent Vian’s request for a School Facility Plant Levy (SFPL). This second levy is allowed, by Idaho Code, for “health and safety improvements” in the district’s five schools.

If approved by 55% of the voters in March, the SFPL will run for ten years at a rate of $100,000 per year. The tax rate is expected to be less than twenty cents per thousand of property tax value. A homeowner whose home is valued at $70,000 (the average home value in Clearwater County) would be taxed on $35,000 worth of value (due to the home owner’s exemption). The cost would be $7 per year, or less than 2 cents per day. A home owner whose home is worth $200,000 could expect to pay about $24 per year.

The funds raised with the SFPL would be used for safety and health related repairs only, specifically to replace the single pane windows in all buildings with double pane, high efficiency windows, replace the heating systems at Timberline and Orofino High School with heat pumps and back up “emergency” heat, and add electronic controls to the heating systems to reduce energy costs and provide fresh air in the classrooms as required by building occupancy codes.

Providing fresh air in classrooms is expected to reduce the spread of illness and improve attendance.

Because the health and safety conditions in the buildings can be declared an Emergency, the district would seek to use the ten year SFPL as collateral to borrow funds to do the necessary building upgrades in the summer of 2014.

Vian stated, “Putting off the repairs and doing them as individual heaters fail or replacing a few windows at a time, over the next ten years greatly reduces the savings on energy and increases the cost due to inflation The board and I are committed to spending this money to save taxpayers money over time, improve the health of our students and staff, and improve security in the classrooms.”

Energy savings are expected to be in the 30% range with the new windows and HVAC systems.

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