West Ada bond issue fails


(UPDATED, 10:15 p.m., with final numbers.)

$104 million bond issue in the West Ada School District fell short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass.

The bond issue had 63 percent support, with 37 percent voting no. The raw numbers: 5,787 voters said yes, 3,432 voters said no.

The election generated no organized support — or opposition — and Tuesday’s turnout was a sparse 9.5 percent, according to Ada County elections results.

West Ada, the state’s largest school district, has not sought a bond issue since 2005.

The district said the bond issue was needed to ease overcrowding brought on by enrollment increases that continued through the recession. Enrollment reached 36,111 in 2013-14, an 18 percent increase from 2005-06.

More than half of the $104 million, $60 million, was earmarked to build two new middle schools. Overcrowding is most acute in West Ada’s middle schools; this year, the district expects middle school enrollment to exceed capacity by nearly 800 students. The package included $24 million to finish renovating and expanding capacity at Meridian High School; $12 million for a new elementary school; and $8 million to acquire sites for new high schools and middle schools.

Tuesday’s election came five months after voters approved a two-year, $28 million levy, with a 60 percent majority. Unlike bond issues, levies require only a simple majority to pass.

West Ada was banking on growth — and a $2 billion increase in property values since 2013-14 — as a selling point in the bond issue. District officials pledged that the schools’ property tax rate would still drop, even with the new bond issue, since the district would be able to spread the new debt across a mushrooming tax base.