School elections: Bonneville levy reruns succeed, two recalls fail

East Idaho voters overwhelmingly OK’d a pair of levy renewals last night, but funding requests like an Emmett bond issue — meant to bankroll a new high school and gymnasium — were killed.

Meanwhile, school board trustees in Nampa and Idaho Falls both survived recall attempts, albeit by vastly different margins.

A total $164.2 million in school funding hung in the balance last night, and most school districts came out on top. Only 2 of the 14 bond and levy measures on the table failed, resulting in $93.1 million in temporary, property-tax based funding being secured for public schools.

Bonneville: Ten-year, $28 million plant facilities levy: passed. Two-year, $11.6 million supplemental levy: passed.

The district flipped the script Tuesday, passing scaled-back levies that both failed in March. Both levies won 69 percent support, clearing the 50 percent needed to pass supplemental levies and the 60 percent needed for the plant facilities levy.

That’s a massive swing from March, when a $38 million plant levy got only 41 percent of the vote and a $13.6 million supplemental levy got 42 percent.

Bonneville’s approved levies, the biggest pair of yearly school funding asks on the May ballot, will replace expiring levies of the same amounts.

Recalls: Nampa school board trustee Kim Rost and Idaho Falls trustee Lara Hill both staved off recall attempts Tuesday.

A total 374 voters supported recalling Hill; nine less, or 365 voted to keep her in office, but recall organizers needed more than 591 votes — the number of people who voted to elect Hill in 2019 — to oust her from office.

While the margin of Idaho Falls’ vote was razor-thin, Nampa’s was a blowout. Of voters, 73 percent voted to keep Rost in office. It would have taken only 133 votes to beat out the level of support Rost earned in her 2017 election to the seat, but turnout in the recall far outpaced her initial election to office; she succeeded 631-230.

Rost had come under fire for her perceived targeting of Superintendent Paula Kellerer after Rost questioned coronavirus-related stipends.

Hill is the second trustee in roughly two months to survive a recall effort in Idaho Falls, where organizers complained that both board members voted in favor of a hybrid schooling model despite vocal opposition from parents.

Emmett: $68 million bond issue: failed. The largest bond issue of the night fell far short of the supermajority threshold it had to clear, taking only 40 percent of ballots. The district hoped to increase property taxes for the next 30 years to build a new high school and gymnasium and fund other school renovations.

“The outcome doesn’t negate the fact that the district still faces serious maintenance issues that will have to be addressed,” Superintendent Craig Woods said in a press release Wednesday. “These issues are not a product of neglect, they are a product of how schools are funded and the amount of funds available for maintenance and upkeep.  It is now up to the District Leadership and Trustees to develop a plan and make the hard choices with the limited funding options.”

The district no longer has a bond on the books, after a 20-year bond expired in 2018.

Jerome: $27 million bond issue: passed.  The districts hopes of funding a new K-6 school were granted Tuesday when 77 percent of voters approved the bond. The approval will allow the district to refinance its existing debt, making way for the new school and renovations to existing schools. The bond’s tax impact will be neutral.

A similar $26 million ask was rejected a year ago. It nabbed 62% of the vote, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass.

Post Falls: Two-year, $9.9 million supplemental levy: passed. A 53 percent vote of support renewed an expiring levy of the same amount.

West Bonner: Two-year, $6.9 million supplemental levy: passed. An increase of $433,000 over the district’s expiring $6 million levy took 52 percent of ballots, narrowly passing.

Mountain View: One-year, $3.1 million supplemental levy: failed. Seeking $800,000 less than its current levy provides, the district’s request failed, pulling 41 percent of the vote.

Whitepine: One-year, $880,000 supplemental levy: passed. The levy renewal easily passed with 74 percent support.

Salmon River: One-year, $515,000 supplemental levy: passed. A resounding 83 percent approval will trigger a $10,000 dip in funding from a one-year levy passed last year.

Teton County: Five-year, $2.5 million plant facilities levy: passed. The renewed levy will tax the same amount as an expiring levy, passed in 2016. It narrowly passed, taking 56 percent of votes; it needed 55 percent.

Nezperce: One-year, $445,000 supplemental levy: passed. With 71  percent of votes, the district’s expiring levy of the same amount was reuped.

Firth: Ten-year, $4 million plant facilities levy: passed. The levy pulled 76 percent support, and will be used to replace both an expiring $950,000 plant levy and a $600,000 supplemental levy; the latter won’t be off the books until 2022.

New Plymouth: Two-year, $700,000 supplemental levy: passed. Perhaps the biggest nail biter of the night came in Payette County, where a levy renewal succeeded by three votes, 93-90. Rounded up, that’s 51 percent of the vote.

Cottonwood: One-year, $275,000 supplemental levy: passed. The levy, cut back by $50,000 from an expiring one, passed with 66 percent approval.

Meadows Valley: Two-year, $434,000 supplemental levy: passed. An increase from the current $378,000 levy won 74 percent support.

Idaho Education News Data Analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

Blake Jones

About Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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