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Have you voted yet? Millions in bond and levy funds to be decided Tuesday

Education

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BOISE — Voters in more than a third of Idaho’s school districts have decisions on March 9: Do they want to approve or renew bond issues or property tax levies for schools?

All told, 45 of Idaho’s 115 school districts will run ballot measures totaling more than $298.2 million. (One year ago, when the March election coincided with presidential primaries, 41 districts sought $174 million in levies.)

So while the March 9 elections are no record-setter — in March 2017, voters decided on a whopping $715 million in bonds and levies — it’s nonetheless a big day for school districts looking to bankroll building projects or put money into teacher pay or day-to-day operations during a pandemic.

Here’s the rundown of bonds and levies in eastern Idaho:

Bonneville: Ten-year, $38 million plant facilities levy; two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levies.

Both proposals represent an increase. The current plant facilities levy is worth $2.8 million per year; in 2018, voters approved a two-year levy worth $5.8 million a year.

Recently, Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme explained the two increases.

He said the increased plant facilities levy would help the growing district with upkeep. Since passing its 2011 plant facilities levy, Bonneville has added 400,000 square feet of new school buildings and 125 acres of property.

The increased supplemental levy would help absorb the costs of opening a new middle school in 2021-22. It would also replace an emergency levy the district has collected annually, to cover costs from enrollment increases. Districts can collect emergency levies without voter approval, but  Woolstenhulme told Idaho Education News that Bonneville officials “no longer plan to include the emergency levy in our budget planning.”

In a recent interview with East Idaho News, Woolstenhulme also said the supplemental levy would help Bonneville offer competitive wages, especially to classified staff.

Bonneville’s plant facilities levy needs a 60 percent majority to pass. All supplemental levies require only a simple majority to pass.

Blackfoot: $23.9 million bond issue; two-year, $4 million supplemental levy.

If the bond issue passes, the East Idaho district plans to convert the existing I.T. Stoddard Elementary School into a career-technical high school, and build a new elementary school. (Click here for a full project list.)

The levy reflects a reduction. In 2019, voters said yes to a two-year, $4.55 million measure.

Pocatello-Chubbuck: Two-year, $18.5 million supplemental levy. District officials say levy dollars would go toward a list of needs, including teacher recruitment, school safety and “unknowns associated with the pandemic’s financial impact on local education.” This levy has been in place for the past six years.

Idaho Falls: Two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place since 2003-04.

Fremont County: Ten-year, $7 million plant facilities levy; two-year, $3 million supplemental levy. The plant facilities levy requires a 55 percent majority, and it’s a replacement. Fremont County can now levy up to $828,000 a year for facilities, but has been collecting $300,000 a year.

The district’s supplemental levy has been on the books for eight years, and goes towards staff salaries, classroom technology, musical instruments and other items.

Shelley: $7.5 million bond issue. The district hopes to renovate Goodsell Elementary School, for kindergarten classrooms and a special services center; install a new HVAC system at Hobbs Middle School; and install camera systems and electronic doors. District officials say they are seeking a bond issue in lieu of a plant facilities levy, which is expiring.

American Falls: Two-year, $5.5 million supplemental levy. A renewal of an existing levy, last approved in 2019.

Bear Lake: Two-year, $1.3 million supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for two years.

Challis: Two-year, $1.2 million supplemental levy. An increase from the current $400,000-a-year levy.

West Jefferson: Two-year, $720,000 supplemental levy. An increase from the district’s existing $300,000-a-year levy, passed in 2018.

Soda Springs: One-year, $698,000 supplemental levy. An extension of a levy last approved a year ago.

Ririe: Two-year, $580,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for two years.

Butte County: Two-year, $320,000 supplemental levy; two-year, $206,000 plant facilities levy. The district’s supplemental levy has been in place for a decade.

Clark County: Two-year, $500,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for six years.

Grace: Two separate one-year supplemental levies: one for $300,000, the other for $150,000. The district has collected a $300,000-a-year levy for the past nine years.

Sugar-Salem: Two-year, $400,000 supplemental levy. This levy has been in place for four years.

Swan Valley: Two-year, $120,000 plant facilities levy. The district has run four such levies since 2019, all without success. Last spring, a levy received 52 percent support, falling shy of the required 55 percent supermajority threshold.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

This article was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on February 24, 2021

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