Coeur d’Alene Schools hope to improve maintenance, security with $80M levy

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Coeur d’Alene Public Schools is asking for a new $80 million school safety and maintenance levy over the course of ten years.

The district says there is a “growing backlog of work” that needs to be done on its schools and buildings. 

Jeff Voeller, the director of operations for Coeur d’Alene Schools, says the current $500,000 budget will not cut it for all the repairs the district needs.

Voeller said the deferred maintenance now costs about $25 million.

That includes the need for new parking lots, updating old HVAC systems, worn-out ramps, cracks in buildings and more.

“We have roof work that needs to be done. We have big HVAC systems that need to be replaced. We have hot water heaters that need to be replaced,” Voeller said.

The levy would also cover security issues. Six elementary schools need better vestibules and security measures. At Ramsey Elementary, it has a vestibule, but it’s not set up the way the district says is needed.

People would push the intercom button and be seen through a camera, but then the district can buzz the visitor right into the school. The standard process in its middle and high schools includes visitors buzzing in, but school staff can see them through a window, too. That’s not the case at some of its elementary schools.

“What you really want is to have that window in the vestibule, where the visitor can conduct their business, or maybe they don’t even need to fully come into the school,” said Scott Maben, the district’s director of communication.

Voeller also says its cameras are getting old and they plan to replace them and add more.

“Many of the security needs have changed over time. We continue to learn from each incident of new things that we can do to make school safer. It’s time to look at some of those things that we can update our school district as well,” Voeller said.

The levy needs 55 percent of the vote to pass. If it does, it will cost $0.30 per $1,000 assessed property value. 

Rates are going down, too, Maben said. Currently, homeowners pay $1.56 per $1,000 assessed property value. If the new levy passes, homeowners will then pay $1.30 per $1,000 assessed value.

The district says the cost is going down because more people are moving into the area, home value assessments have gone up which all means taxes are more spread out.

“One thing to really think about is, in this economy, as assessed values are going up, we operate on a levy-based tax system. When there’s more growth contributing to that tax system, it can actually decrease our levy rates over time,” Voeller said.

The district acknowledged the timing may be rough with costs going up everywhere, but added that the levy is needed. Voeller said they would’ve asked for the levy years ago but then COVID-19 got in the way.

“If we don’t maintain those, those costs are going to continue to rise year over year over year. The maintenance is going to continue to pile up,” he added.

The levy vote will happen on August 30. Click here to learn how to register to vote in Idaho.

READ: #4ThePeople: How to register to vote in Washington and Idaho

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