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Twin Falls School District to move to modified schedule, approves supplemental levy

Posted at 3:12 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 17:04:09-05

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The Twin Falls School District will move into a new schedule after the holidays, and they approved the final step before putting a supplemental levy on the ballot.

"The board will be finalizing that language tonight which will complete the process to move forward with a levy election on March 9," explained Dr. Brady Dickinson, the district's superintendent. "It would be increasing our supplementary levy from 5 million to 5.7 million, but the net result because it's a shift would actually be a net reduction and savings to taxpayers."

As Idaho News 6 has reported, the district refinanced some of their other levies earlier this year--which is why this one will cost taxpayers less, even though it's more money than the last one.

Back in 2014, the district passed a $75 million bond levy to build three new schools. Similar to a mortgage on a house, bond levies have interest rates--and according to financial experts, right now, those interest rates are at historic lows.
That's why the district chose to refinance now.

"Since then (2014), we've paid back part of the bonds and still owed about 62.5 million," explained Dickinson. "By doing that, it actually shortened back the time it would take to pay those bonds by three years and ultimately saves our taxpayers almost 14 million dollars in interest."

The district can't use the extra money for other things, so ultimately it saves taxpayers money.

Explaining Education Financing

There are three kinds of levies: bond, supplemental, and plant facilities. They're all for different purposes--and the money has specific uses, so it can't be transferred to other projects.

Thanks to low-interest rates, financial experts say they expect school districts across the state and across the nation will begin refinancing.

"We're definitely seeing a trend in that direction," explained Eric Heringer, Piper Sandler's Managing Director. "You think about, I'm having a lot of friends that are refinancing their houses and so it's a very similar dynamic which is: I can save some money, so why wouldn't I take advantage of that opportunity."

The board also approved a schedule shift that will begin after Christmas break.

"The recommendation is going to be to return to a 4 day a week schedule. So students would be in school all day face to face Tuesday through Friday, and then Monday would be a distance learning day," explained Dickinson.

The shift comes based on recommendations from the CDC and local health experts. The district says they've prioritized both flexibility and safety as we learn more about the virus.

"What we know today is different than what we knew in March than what we knew in July," Dr. Dickinson said when asked about the changes. "It's not a matter of going back and saying 'Oh we made a mistake,' it's more that we've learned more. You have to be able to adjust your practices as we learn more information."