Bonneville to rerun levies in May

 

Just days after patrons voted against renewing two property tax levies for the Bonneville School District, trustees will put a new request on the ballot in May.

The board on Wednesday unanimously approved floating a 10-year, $2.8 million-per-year plant facilities levy and a two-year, $5.8 million-per-year supplemental levy on May 18.

The new request represents a decrease from two measures on March 9, which asked for a 10-year, $38 million plant facilities levy and two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levies.

The increased plant facilities levy received just 41 percent support, well below the 60 percent supermajority threshold. The supplemental levy received 42 percent support; all supplementals need only a simple majority to pass.

Low turnout and a complex funding picture heading into spring surfaced as major discussion points during Wednesday’s board meeting.

“I think we have an obligation to go back out,” said trustee Paul Jenkins, citing a local voter turnout of around 12 percent on March 9.

Trustee Greg Calder said that amount makes it hard to gauge community consensus. “We don’t know what the community wants because they didn’t come vote.”

An influx of millions of federal COVID-19 relief dollars also factored into Wednesday’s discussion. Bonneville Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme told trustees that current and expected funds will help the district handle upkeep on a number of new facilities stemming from years of local population growth.

But relying solely on an influx of federal funds now could make it difficult to return with future requests for supplemental funds.

“When those (federal) dollars are gone, we’re going to have to ask for an even bigger increase (than the district asked for on March 9).”

Proposed increases in the March 9 measures fueled opposition from a local citizen group that questioned requests for more money during a global pandemic.

Bonneville is one of Idaho’s fastest growing districts, but saw enrollment drop for the first time in years this school year.

With over 13,000 students, securing local funds for structural upgrades and growth has been a struggle in years past. Due largely to its still-developing tax base, Bonneville generates less local revenue than other districts its size. As a result, local home and business owners have paid a growing price for all the growth in recent years.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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