Bringing the Economy Home

Low Property Values Put One Idaho School District Behind

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Rockland, Idaho is surrounded by grazing and cropland.

The people of Rockland, Idaho pay a lot to support their school.  As StateImpact reported yesterday, they pay the highest levy rate in the state, despite having some of Idaho’s lowest property values.

Let’s unpack that a little more.  What exactly does that mean?

Relying on the most recent statewide data, from 2010, taxpayers in the Rockland district pay a levy that amounts to $696.50 per $100,000 of property value.  In other words, for every $100,000 worth of property in the district, nearly $700 goes to Rockland School.

That’s all pretty abstract, without some context.  For that, consider the Highland Joint School District, in Craigmont.  It’s many hours west and north of Rockland, but the two districts have meaningful similarities.  Like Rockland School District, Highland Joint contains one, small K-12 school.  In 2010, Rockland had 167 students.  Highland Joint had 178.

One of the key pieces of information about school levies is how much money a levy generates per student in the district.  Rockland, through its high levy rate, generates $1,262 in additional funding per student per year.  Highland Joint generates just slightly more — $1,279 per student.

But in order to generate that slightly higher rate, the taxpayers of Highland Joint actually pay much less than the taxpayers of Rockland.  Instead of the nearly $700 per $100,000 of property value that Rockland people contribute, Highland Joint taxpayers pay just $165 per $100,000 of property value.  Because their power to raise money is greater, based on their higher property values, Highland Joint’s comparatively more wealthy taxpayers contribute much less, but generate slightly more for their students.

Since 2010, both Highland Joint and Rockland have faced cuts in state funding.  While Rockland has done its best to avoid raising the levy further, Highland Joint has successfully gone back to voters and asked for more.  This year, Highland Joint voters approved a 39 percent levy increase. It will bring in an additional $120,000 for their school.


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