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Initiative Abolishing the School Levy will need School District support

Levies are a local civil war in every school district year after year, state wide. The pass rate of Idaho levies is fairly high, but the constant uncertainty makes school planning and administration inefficient, difficult and stressful. Levy supporters rightly complain that of the fifty states, Idaho ranks the lowest in terms of per-student revenue.

Opponents make a variety of arguments, but one stands out –and that is the type of tax at issue – property tax. In a conservative state which values private property rights, the property tax is widely unpopular. When combined with the reality of those with fixed incomes getting priced out of their homes, many vehemently oppose levies primarily because it is a property tax. The State is aggressively forcing increases in valuations at the county level, and we have seen that have a huge impact right here in Idaho County. Our local elected officials have resisted increases but now they are under threat by the State to increase assessments or the State will step in and do it for (TO) us. This is not good at all…

It is thus fair to say that no one “likes” the levy system, but for different reasons. It is time to UNITE the communities and school districts on this common disdain for levies, by forcing the State to abide by its Constitutional duty to fund public schools. The Legisltature has failed. The Courts have failed. The citizens must not fail.

There are those who will say that the Legislature will just have to find more tax revenue to pay for this – and this is true. There are but two replies to this point. First, is that our state Constitution mandates funding of public education and if you support the Constitution then you have to accept this fact. Second, the state spreads this cost among the entire population and state, is in a much better position to make these decisions, and its decision in this regard are scrutinized state wide. This should result in stable and reliable funding.

If a citizen is opposed on the grounds that the schools have enough money without the levy, they will continue to oppose additional funding from any source or method. This appears to be a small minority of voters state wide, and no school funding plan will appeal to those citizens.

So HOW can an initiative get rolling and succeed? We see only one way – that is to tap in to an existing support structure that is the main one affected by this issue – that is the 117 school districtswhich exist state wide. If the Boards of enough districts support this initiative, it will easily gather adequate signatures to get on the ballot. If this #244 Board supports this initiative, it can share and promote the initiative to ALL other school boards, and with their support again will easily gather adequate signatures to get on the ballot. On the other hand if our local Board ignores or rejects this idea of school funding reform then it’s dead on arrival. It’s on the agenda, so we shall see…

Joshua Palken & Melina Palken

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