MERIDIAN -- Leaders in Joint School District Number Two (the Meridian school district) say there is support to build another school, but only if one condition is met.
Joint School District Number Two is the largest school district in the state with 36,000 students. They're also one of the fastest growing.
They are over capacity at some of their high schools and all of their middle schools. Lake Hazel Middle School is 45 percent over capacity.
A survey just returned to the district indicates 76 percent of parents (not all voters, but parents) agreed or strongly agreed that relieving overcrowding at middle schools should be a priority on the next bond proposal. And 73 percent supported that same idea for high schools, while 62 percent (less than the required percentage for a bond to pass) believed relieving overcrowding at elementary schools with a bond should be a priority.
However, parents weren't nearly as supportive. Only 50 percent support a bond if it raised property taxes. I don't think you would actually pass it otherwise. If it's a tax increase, the way I would read that data is, that would not be successful with voters, district spokesman Eric Exline.
Exline says with property values rising in the area they wouldn't need to raise taxes since they are rising on their own. So then, you can levy the same amount, or even less, and still generate enough money to pay whatever the district's obligations are, when it comes to past bonds, and even potentially a future bond. We saw about a 12 percent increase in market value last year. I think that's going to continue. There is a lot of construction going on right now that had really stopped for three years, he said.
KTVB's Jamie Grey just did a special report on how school districts like Meridian are running out of operational funds known as discretionary funds. So if they are able to build a school, how can they pay to run it? Exline says the largest expense of running a school is the staff. They wouldn't need to hire any more, since they have enough teachers for the students, just not enough rooms to put them in. Books are a little bit more of an additional cost, and the cost of turning on the heat and lights is an additional expense. But the big expense, the staffing, is basically just a transfer from one school to another.
A committee will look over the survey and give a proposal to the school board on whether or not to try to run a bond. That should happen by January.
Meridian taxpayers are still paying on a two-year school levy they passed in March of 2012.