School levy or bond: What's the difference?

Levy versus bond

POCATELLO, Idaho - Eighteen area school districts will be watching the votes very carefully Tuesday. Many are voting for a levy and one is voting for a bond to build. Here's how to understand the difference between a levy and a bond before you vote.

"It truly is indicative of the economic support that we are receiving from the state of Idaho and the level of underfunding that we are faced with," said Mary Vagner, Superintendent of Pocatello-Chubbuck School District #25.

Vagner reflects on the current educational landscape, with so many local districts holding upcoming elections. How are voters supposed to understand the breakdown of a levy versus a bond?

"A levy is supplemental to the general fund and the general fund pays for the operation of the school district," said Vagner. It includes salaries and benefits, supplies and equipment, materials and utilities, fuel and extracurricular, but a bond is also voted upon by the people.

"And it is money that is specific to fund building improvements or specific to do remodels or to build new construction," said Vagner.

There is also a third option called a plant facility levy. It is much like a bond, in that the money can only be used for new construction, significant maintenance, or remodeling. It cannot be used for everyday maintenance needs.

Both supplemental and plant facility levies require a simple majority vote. A bond, however, requires two-thirds majority.

Vagner says a supplemental levy is critical for school districts to operate. In the Pocatello-Chubbuck district, for example, educators serve 12,600 students and 13 percent of operating funding comes from local taxation.

"Education is an investment in the children and we have an obligation to invest in our children as citizens," said Vagner.

Here are the school districts that are holding supplemental levy elections Tuesday:
North Gem #149, $200,00 for two years
Grace #148, $300,000 for one year
Soda Springs #50, $798,000 for one year
Ririe #252, $385,000 for two years
Bonneville #93, $3 million for two years
Idaho Falls #91, $6.8 million for two years
Pocatello-Chubbuck #25, $8.5 million for two years
Teton #401, $3.1 million for two years
Blackfoot #55, $1.97 million for two years
Snake River #52, $900,000 for two years
Aberdeen #58, $675,000 for one year
Clark County #161, $151,000 for two years
Butte County #111, $160,000 for two years
Challis #181, $400,000
Mackay #182, $150,000 for two years
Bear Lake #33, $800,000 for two years

Holding a plant facility levy:
Butte County #111, $65,000
Cassia #151, $850,000 to $2.7 million for 10 years, (annual collection goes up after second year, as existing bond issues retire)

Holding a bond election:
Salmon #291, $14.6 million for 20 years

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