Nine Mile Falls (NMF) School Levy: 5 Facts You Need to Know to Vote on Tuesday Feb 9

WHEN & WHERE

Special Election: February 9, 2021

Ballot Drop Box Location:  Local ballot drop box location has changed. Drop ballots, on election day only, at the SCCAT COP Shop, 5978 Hwy 291, Suite 4, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

WHY THIS LEVY IS IMPORTANT

Levies fund learning. The current levy is set to expire at the end of the 2021-22 school year. This replacement levy finances the next three school years. The community tax, which is based on property values, supplies 17% of the district’s budget to operate two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.

“Our intent is to maintain our programs the same way we have been,” NMFSD Superintendent Brian Talbot told the Loon Lake Times. “This is not extra dollars for the coffers. We want to continue offering our kiddos the same level of excellent programs that we always have.”

PROPERTY OWNERS GET TAX DECREASE

Technically, the school district is asking for a 46% increase from the prior school levy. The community levy rate will rise from $1.70 to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. However, a two-year Capital Levy to improve the health, safety and energy efficiency of Lakeside Middle School has also expired. This relieves the community of the extra 70-cent burden that pushed the tax to $3.17 in 2020. As a result, homeowners will see a reduction in overall property taxes. 

Of important note is that the levy is based on a fixed amount. NMFSD cannot collect more than the requested amount for each year, which is $3.37 million in 2022, $3.61 million in 2023 and $3.86 million in 2024. This means that the $2.50 rate is a projected amount each household will pay. Under this community cost-share model, as property values increase or more homes and businesses move in, the per household expense decreases.

WHY YOUR VOTE IS IMPORTANT

Special elections aren’t hugely popular, but this levy needs 50% +1 community support to pass. If it fails, then NMFSD not only loses 17% of its current-level budget but also its state-matched levy equalization funds. The Local Effort Assistance (LEA) grant exceeds $500,000 and pays for 3% of the district’s operations costs. Additionally, the school board plans to put up the proposition again on the April ballot, but it must sponsor the entire marketing campaign on its own, depleting its already limited resources.

WHERE YOUR HARD-EARNED DOLLARS GO

State taxes pay for basic education classes that cover academic standards material, such as English and math, or special education. The Nine Mile Falls community tax supports enrichment programs, which covers everything from sports to art classes to leadership opportunities.

According to details provided during a Zoom-hosted school board meeting on Jan. 27, the district spends $715,000 annually on extracurricular programs, activities and clubs. In the past three decades, local high schoolers have accumulated 29 athletic State Championships, became Destination Imagination Global Champions and competed in 14 DECA and Knowledge Bowl state competitions. They also regularly bring home regional and state awards for their music programs.

Additionally, the community tax closes the staff funding gap by employing an extra 76 educators, administrators and classified personnel, including a full-time nursing position. Without this backing, the district’s school nurse would have just over 1.5 hours each day to see students at all four schools.