School Bond Would Add $3400 Debt To Median Value Home

DISCLAIMER: The GUARDIAN does not endorse or oppose candidates or ballot measures. We try to stimulate discussion of issues and present facts often ignored by proponents or opponents.

AMITY SCHOOL was billed as the most energy-efficient school in the country when it was built. GUARDIAN editor, Dave Frazier, wrote the story and made the photo for a TIME MAGAZINE feature. The underground structure has been a costly white elephant for years, despite the promises offered. Plans call for replacing the structure.

The March 14 bond election in the Boise School District is an important event. Entering into $171,000,000 of public debt is not to be taken lightly and all aspects of the investment should be considered.

The District sent out a brochure of “facts” to teachers, former teachers, parents, etc. The “facts” were accompanied by an application for an absentee ballot. A District spokesman told the GUARDIAN the list was comprised of “addresses readily available.” No doubt that list didn’t include any known opponents, conservative leaders, Tea Party members, or other known tight-fisted voters. We feel that mailing should have gone to all voters or not at all since it was on District letterhead and paid –apparently– with public money.

A flashier mailer also with an absent voter ballot application was sent by “Friends of Boise Public Schools.” (Great name as it implies a NO vote would be the “Enemy”) It says the $171 million will reduce overcrowding, make critical repairs, and upgrade classrooms. Neither mailer has specifics. They both sound like a Donald Trump plan to “Make America Great.”

The idea of getting to the voters before there is a lot of discussion on issues has become more common lately. The days of researching an issue or candidate and voting on election day seems a thing of the past.

Here are some facts which are gleaned from public records and official sources:

Median home value in the District is $245,000. In Ada County, there is $25.5 billion in taxable residential property value. Commercial taxable property is valued at $11.8 Billion.
That means the tax at current levy rates is $70 per $100,000 in value which amounts to about $171 per year for the median home of $245,000.

Commercial property owners have no voice at the polls. If they live in the District, they get to vote, but only once–essentially on behalf of their residence. That’s one reason for the so-called “super majority” which requires 2/3 approval. The intent is to sort of level the playing field so folks with no real estate holdings can’t impose a tax on the commercial owners who have no vote. It’s a constitutional mandate.

Given the life of the bond is 20 years, that means the average home will have a debt of $3,400 wrapped into the mortgage payment if the bond passes. If the bond FAILS, it logically should have a DECREASE in taxes of $171 per year and no $3,400 added debt.

While there is no such thing as a free lunch, proponents are claiming there will be “no increase in taxes.” That’s because a 20 year bond that was due to expire will, in essence,
be extended for another two decades. If the bond fails, the District is free to come back for repeated attempts to secure voter approval. Once it is passed, there is no second try to repeal.

To claim there is “no increase in tax rates” is like a car dealer claiming he can put you in a new car “at no additional cost” the day you make your final payment on the model you are driving. It will mean you never get out of debt and the car payments are extended. When the 1997 bond was passed, no one ever told us it was really for 40 years, not 20.

This may sound negative toward the bond, but the facts are all correct. If the bond fails it won’t be the end of the world. The District can come back with a modified proposal for voters to consider. That’s exactly what CWI is doing after their recent bond proposal failed.

We would like to see both bonds (CWI and Boise Schools) on the ballot at the same time. That way voters would have a clear picture of the cost of education and decide if they want to pony up the cash.

Click CONTINUE to see the proposed shopping list.

Pierce Park Elementary rebuild: $13.8 million
Whittier Elementary rebuild: $13.8 million
Amity Elementary rebuild: $13.8 million
Harris Ranch, new elementary school: $13.8 million
Highlands Elementary rebuild: $9.7 million
Mountain View Elementary rebuild: $8.8 million
Valley View Elementary rebuild: $11.6 million
Eliminate “cafegymatoriums” at seven schools: $8.5 million

Washington Elementary infrastructure: $5.4 million
Professional Technical Center, add class space: $13.4 million
Timberline High School, add class space: $12.8 million
Boise High School, update gym/performing arts space: $17.9 million
Hillside Junior High, new gym, cafeteria, class space: $7.8 million
Fairmont Junior High, new gym, cafeteria, class space: $7.8 million
Collister Elementary, remodel P.E., performing arts space: $7.4million
Longfellow Elementary, remodel P.E., performing arts space: $5.9 million

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Rod In SE Boise
    Feb 21, 2017, 9:54 pm

    I hope we all can agree that public schools are woefully underfunded by the state, forcing school districts to pick up the slack. Vote Yes.

  2. Cowpoke Twice Removed
    Feb 21, 2017, 10:04 pm

    Not factoring in the homeowners’ exemption residents receive seems like a glaring oversight or maybe a selective application of the “facts”. You can’t take shots at the BSD for being less than forthright in their salesmanship and then play your own sleight of hand with the numbers.

    EDITOR NOTE–Cowpoke you are out of line. The figure as noted in the post is TAXABLE value which is $25.5 billion. Total residential value is $34.5 billion.

  3. Cowpoke Twice Removed
    Feb 21, 2017, 10:07 pm

    Nicely said Rod. I’m sure all school districts would like to not be in the school bond business but state funding leaves them no choice.

    EDITOR NOTE–How about going after the legislature? If we let them off the hook, they will never pony up as they should. Another factor is the active solicitation for GROWTH. Schools have no voice in the actions of Meridian and Boise city councilors who attract new business with “incentives” and tax breaks which attracts more people who have more kids who use more schools which cost more money. Give the schools veto power or require the businesses to build schools.

  4. So, to our legislative leadership: It’s OK if you don’t meet your responsibility to fund education. Continue to reduce or eliminate the personal property tax and provide corporate tax exemptions. We homeowners will cover for you.

  5. Concerned Neighbor
    Feb 22, 2017, 6:17 am

    Money does not increase education. Focusing on results does. Giving teachers the mandate and authority to keep discipline in their classrooms does.

    I went to a poor school yet ended up completing Calculus II, Physics, 4 years of a foreign language, and AP English. Money didn’t do that. Work and drive did.

    If we want educational results then we need a fundamental reset. This bond isn’t it. Instead, it throws good money after bad and kicks the real problems down the road yet again.

    Also, the voter suppression inherent in an off season, off day, hidden from public vote is disgusting. It’s no better than gerrymandering, having too few voting areas, long lines, and other methods attacking democracy.

  6. None of this will happen: 1) eliminate these odd election days; 2) reform the property tax system; 3) get the State to step up and do what the state constitution mandates.

  7. chicago sam
    Feb 22, 2017, 7:36 am

    Impact fees for schools should be assessed on new development just as their are fees paid for parks, streets and fire protection.

  8. Most notable is the DISCLAIMER.

    I say The Guardian does do an excellent job in providing and promoting issues often ignored by the mass media and the city council.

    In today’s world of “Fake News” (stupid use of the term by Trump, given his own LIES and those of his administration), ALL PR campaigns, journalists, writers, and bloggers #selectively# present #their facts#.

    Just like we have seen in the 2016 election, people will vote their color regardless of the actual issue or candidate.
    People here will vote for, or against, the bond based on “their facts” of what they believe is happening in education. It has NOTHING to do with whether the schools truly need the money or why they may need it (evidence of this is in the above comments).

    “If you think education is too expensive you are probably paying for your own ignorance.”

    That being said, there is no benefit of govt waste (ACHD, city, or schools) and the schools ought not have a giant blank check.

    Every property owner does have a voice- that voice is loud and clear when someone BUYS property, and when someone SELLS the property.
    IF someone feels their property taxes are too high, they can see a local realtor to sell.
    Boise is a seller’$ market right now. I wonder why that is….

  9. Clancy Anderson
    Feb 22, 2017, 10:42 am

    BG is right about the continuance of of the tax that this bond represents. And I do fault the legislature for not addresses school funding better both for operating cost (last revised in 1994) and for capital improvements (2005 ID Supreme Court). But I do not see much other choice for school districts to build new schools or improve older schools. At least they ask us unlike Boise City/CCDC spending money on parking garages and baseball stadiums with tax money.

    Ever wondered why you see so many portable, modular or relocatable classrooms at Boise Schools? It is an easy way for the BSD to deal with enrollment issues and pay for it without going to to the voters. Here is a list of schools with these classrooms from 2011.

  10. I went to a relatively affluent school, and ended up in the top 75% of my class!!!

    My marginally-educated observations:

    – Boise School District does a pretty good job of providing a good education for our kids, with the amount of funds they have. (My kids had great teachers, for the most part… and now my granddaughter is blessed with excellent teachers.) The TEACHER makes the difference, far more than the administrators or the classroom remodeling or lack thereof. Great teachers should be compensated accordingly.

    – There is NO correlation between dollars-spent-per-student, and the quality of education. (Just look at which states spend most and least… and the quality of the students they turn out.)

    – The School District does a fine job of promoting THEIR viewpoint, and trying to muster pro-bond voters. The “counterpoint” is woefully under-represented. Having “stealth” elections gives the impression of sneakiness… I’d much prefer that it be out in the open on November Election Day.

  11. Dave – I’d very much appreciate more specific information about the “costly white elephant” Amity School… I’ve always been pretty impressed with the berm-style construction, and wondered why it wasn’t used more widely. Perhaps you could educate us. (Thanks!)

  12. Rod in SE Boise
    Feb 22, 2017, 11:34 am

    Regarding the Editor’s comment to Cowpokes second comment: The Idaho legislature doesn’t listen to any one except some mythical supreme being. They will not do anything.

    Regarding concerned Neighbor’s comment: The bond is about repairing buildings and has nothing to do with disipline. I have not heard ANYTHING about a disipline problem in our schools.

  13. Visible Hand
    Feb 22, 2017, 12:11 pm

    Your belief the 2/3rds bond requirement is necessary to “protect” commercial property owners from qualified electors is reckless and an affront to the rights established in the state and the U.S. Constitution. First of all, commercial property owners can vote with their feet if they are dissatisfied by a democratic vote. Second, you assume that all out of state, out of country property owners would vote against tax increases for all purposes. Finally, you don’t seem to think that commercial property owners will pass that tax increase onto consumers. If anything, out of state property owners are the only ones who won’t pay for it. Your argument is a thinly veiled attempt to hold the rights of property owners above all others. I’m happy to debate the merits of the cost of a proposal and how it would affect consumers and citizens of the district, and to what extent it might discourage business investment, but to extend the reach of the argument to defend the super majority vote to protect out of state, out of country owners who are not qualified electors of the state is beyond the pale.

    EDITOR NOTE–We would NEVER wish to return to feudal times when only property owners were allowed to vote. Given your argument without regard to market forces, it would seem logical that rents and retail would DECREASE if the bond fails.

  14. Bikeboy.. great observations. As for Amity, I don’t understand why they can’t scrape off the dirt and re-seal the roof for cheaper than the cost of a new school. Leakage is the only problem I have heard about. And it’s lasted for 45 years. But my education doesn’t include a degree in engineering.

  15. Wrong Priorities
    Feb 22, 2017, 1:58 pm

    It is not an underfunding problem as so many SHOUT over and over. There is a terrible efficiency problem within all levels of American government, and especially the schools. I have no doubt the teachers are getting jipped of pay, but it is because of the seven layers of do-nothings in the overpaid administration.

    They also overspend on the design of new schools like they are a 10,000 years monument. Always placed on the most expensive land they can find too. Each school is built special and unique by a panel of overpriced engineers and architects, often with huge cost overruns. (Why not just buy the plans from a school already built somewhere in the US or Canada that fits the need.)

    Lastly it has been shown over and over again; money spent is not directly related to outcomes. We spend more than every other country above us and are still 25th in stupids produced.

  16. Bieter Begone
    Feb 22, 2017, 2:41 pm

    Valley View School last summer received a brand new parking lot. The old was completely excavated down to 4-8 feet, new landscaping, light fisxtures etc. Had to have cost at least $100,000 if not more,

    Now Valley View is on the list to replace. Will they also replace the parking lot? Or will it be destroyed by the heavy equipment but left?

    My understanding is the Boise District is losing students. Why not consolidate the schools by closing the old and incorporating students into the newer?

    Ah well, it’s only other people’s money.

  17. Ballots in the mail?
    Feb 22, 2017, 5:19 pm

    What if every time there was an election, all voters received a ballot in the mail? It is easy when what is sent out are bills for garbage, water, sewer, and Boise State football tickets. But the political entities (those wanting your money) can’t afford to send out ballots every half-year: The districts seeking your money expect you to turn out for a positive vote. Wake up if you wish to keep your own funds in your own pocket and for your own family needs and go vote. That seems obvious unless you’ve been told otherwise.

    The school district is doing a strategic promotion of their issues. There is always a fight for public education.

    It is a proof of special interest issues, also about elections off of the regular election days, and that special interests have influence. Also that our legislature is not funding schools.

  18. Ballots in the Mail,
    How about if I go vote, indeed keep my own funds in my own pocket for my family, and with my funds willingly INVEST more money in PUBLIC education to get a great return on my funds, through a stronger & smarter community, appreciating property values, and a strong economy?
    That would be good too, right?
    My family needs a strong public education system.
    Let’s vote long-term, instead of thinking of only the next property tax bill.

    Pro-public education.
    Anti-private elite education at the detriment of public education.

  19. Property for a school
    Feb 23, 2017, 7:09 am

    St. Lukes could give their Emerald St. – Shoreline property for a school instead of a baseball project.

    From one non profit to another. . .

  20. I really don’t know why older schools can’t be refurbished and modernized. Years ago the demand for schools outpaced the ability to construct new schools. The solution was to have a split school day. 7:00 AM to 12:00 noon was the first shift and 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM was the second shift of students. This went on for an entire semester and partly into the next semester when I was in the 6th grade.
    Why not renovate older schools using the aforementioned school day until the work is completed. They have the building, the land and the impact on the tax base not as draconian.

    It is my opinion that it has become too easy to not remodel older schools but deem them unfit for our children. What is the intended use for the old school buildings when they build a new school? The old school building becomes a place for the indigent and homeless to camp out and create a public nuisance. The school grounds grow up with weeds and all manner of illegal waste disposal.

    The neighborhoods where people bought their homes so kids could walk to school may end up losing value due to the need for buses to transport kids to school. (also adding more cost to taxpayers).

    Again, I have yet to hear a single bond proponent talk about renovation v. building a new school. The easiest thing for them to do is spend other people’s money.

  21. The flyers and supplemental informational material were not paid for with public funds. They were paid for by money that was raised specifically for the bond information distribution from a variety of local business, organizations and citizens.
    The information was sent out to target the audience that they believe to be the most receptive to a vote of ye, that’s just a marketing concept, not discrimination.

    If you honestly believe that the money the bond will provide to help repair and expand the resources critical to our students will go to waste or not be effectively utilized then you are incorrect.

    If you believe that if you vote no for this bond that your taxes will be reduced you are also incorrect.
    Please consider the fact that our children are depending on their elders to provide adequate resources and a facility to maintain the dismal level of educational commitment that Idaho has set forth. It’s not like this bond is being used to raise staff salaries or take the kids on more field trips. Don’t be absurd.

    EDITOR NOTE–Two of the prime advocates of the Boise school bond are the Associated General Contractors and the Chamber of Commerce. THE ENTIRE AMOUNT will eventually go to the contractors who build the proposed schools! Much of the material and labor will benefit Chamber of Commerce members. As to your “marketing concept,” we agree it is intended to secure passage, not inform voters. Total bond cost in Boise with interest is north of $236,000,000. If the bond won’t increase taxes, why may we ask, will taxes not decline if the old bond is retired and there is no new expense?

  22. chicago sam
    Feb 23, 2017, 8:48 pm

    The urban renewal districts have plenty of money yet they pay no taxes to support the schools as well as the resource officers, fire protection and other services required. All of the (tax increment) money goes to stimulate growth , yet the products of growth and extra expenses are born by people outside the UR districts. Not much evidence that growth enhances our quality of life or that the growth pays for itself. Impact fees for schools are sorely needed.

  23. The points about the Idaho legislature are correct. The state has a largely rural electorate who consistently elect a legislature that, in my opinion, reflects their interests. Altering the priorities of the legislature is a difficult task and beyond the reach of a school district or city.

    A bond like this can be seen as an opportunity for a local municipality to exert control over its destiny. Does Boise want to do things the same way as the rest of Idaho or differently?

    The “down low” marketing campaign is a prudent choice of the bond supporters. It is my opinion that the general electorate is no longer rational and supports their “team” based largely upon insular media consumption, sound bytes, and targeted social media messaging. Competing within that space is not a path to success for a local campaign.

  24. Also, I also would love to hear more about the story of Amity Elementary. It is unique in the district and I’ve always wondered why the school board of the time chose to build such a school.

    EDITOR NOTE–In a nutshell it was at the early stages of the “environmental movement” and Boise generally had an inferiority complex. We wanted to “lead the nation” and have an “eco-friendly” school that put Boise on the map.

  25. Jennifer – who raised the money and from whom?

  26. Wrong Priorities
    Feb 25, 2017, 1:48 am

    Did you know Amity school was suppose to be totally underground. The super smart people failed to notice the hardest rock shield on earth is about 5 feet below sod in this area. After excessive blasting they got to the current depth and surrendered. The same kind of wasteful clownish planning goes into the new schools and upgrades. These people should not be allowed to run a hotdog stand.

  27. Cowpoke twice removed
    Feb 26, 2017, 10:05 am

    I’m not out of line Dave. I reference your comments on the median home value and the additional tax you state the homeowner would have to pay. Based on your figures the median home with a HOE would be assesed about $100 not $170.

  28. Jennifer,

    I not quite sure if you’re referring to the Boise School District mailer or the Yes For Boise Schools mailer. Both mailers provide basically the same information although the Yes group one apparently was mailed to a wider audience.

    According to a story in Idaho Ed News ( the Boise School District spent $ 11,400 taxpayer dollars to develop and mail their “voter information” material. So much for not having enough money for the classroom – or for updating the District Service Center (see Bond projects).

    I do agree with you that monies received from this Bond, if it passes, would go toward capital improvements and deferred maintenance items, not salaries and field trips. But having those Bond monies also frees up budget monies now going to capital improvements and deferred maintenance items. Those “freed up” monies can be redirected toward salaries and field trips.

    You also say “If you believe that if you vote no for this bond that your taxes will be reduced you are also incorrect.” So why won’t taxes decrease if the Bond does not pass? The 1996 Bond is expiring and the 2012 (temporary) Supplemental (operating) Levy is expiring. It would seem the levy rates associated with those would expire also. That would translate to a tax rate reduction.

    Please explain your rational for no tax decrease. Looking forward to your response.

  29. Wrong Priorities
    Feb 28, 2017, 10:52 am

    The professional educators in America have very successfully turned the topic away from the fact that they really really suck at education. They’ve made it about money. They SUCK so bad at what they are suppose to be doing I think it’s criminal. They force drugs to any kid who figures out our schools are bullshit. Diagnosis made by person with Education degree or less.

  30. Wrong Priorities. You are wrong. The building was designed to be above grade, underground was never considered. Soils investigations were done to determine the best place to put the underground fire water storage tank, so the locations of the rock was known. I worked in the architectural firm at the time, but not on that project. I have personally questioned the whole grass and sod on roof movement, even the most modern building materials will eventually fail. Wait for the same issues to show up at the State House underground wings in 30 years or so.

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