A $216 million school election day looms next week

Idaho voters will decide on more than $216 million in school bond issues and levies Tuesday.

On top of that, voters in one Eastern Idaho county will decide whether they want to pay property taxes to support the state’s newest community college.

Here’s a rundown on next week’s elections.

Idaho Falls: The $110 million bond issue would pay for two big-ticket projects — replacing Idaho Falls High School and rebuilding Skyline High School.

District officials say the plan grew out of months of meetings with patrons, and will give the taxpayers the best value for their money. Critics aren’t sure. They don’t want to see the district gut Idaho Falls high — which sits in the heart of an older section of the city — and say the district has misled voters by saying the bond issue will not trigger a tax increase.

The bond issue needs two-thirds support to pass.

Click here to read more about the debate in Idaho Falls.

Teton County: Voters will decide on two bond issues — which, taken together, would have a price tag of close to $37.3 million.

Apropos of Eastern Idaho spud country, supporters of a Teton County school bond issue are using an oversized potato to help get the word out. Photo courtesy of Teton School District 401 support group.

The first and largest proposal, a $30.05 million bond issue, would build new elementary schools in Driggs and Victor and renovate the district’s other elementary schools. The second measure, at slightly more than $7.2 million, would pay for renovations and additions at Teton Middle School and Teton High School.

While both bond issues require two-thirds support to pass, the middle school and high school proposal hinges on the success of the elementary school proposal. If voters reject the elementary school bond issue, the second bond issue would not go into effect, regardless of the outcome of the election.

Bond issue backers say the growing district’s aging elementary schools are cramped. Opponents say the district could come up with a less expensive upgrade. (Click here for a closer look at the debate.)

Caldwell: The Canyon County district is seeking a 10-year, $25.1 million plant facilities levy.

The levy would help Caldwell extend the life of school buildings dating back to the 1940s, Superintendent Shalene French told KIVI 6 On Your Side. “We really do want our schools to last another 50 to 100 years,” French said.

The Caldwell district contracted with retired Middleton district Superintendent Rich Bauscher to work on the levy campaign. Bauscher says he conducted a random telephone survey of 450 district patrons, and found 84 percent support for the proposal.

District officials say the new levy would not increase tax rates. The levy proposal — which would supersede a five-year levy approved in 2015 — requires a 60 percent majority to pass.

Nampa: Idaho’s third-largest district will seek a two-year, $18.75 million supplemental levy. The new levy would replace a two-year, $15.56 million measure passed in 2015. Citing growth and increased property values, the district says it can increase the levy to $9.375 million per year without increasing tax rates.

The district hopes to use the money to maintain existing programs, update school technology, support extracurricular activities and complete building and playground upgrades.

Supplemental levies require a simple majority to pass.

Snake River: The district is seeking a 10-year, $7.5 million plant facilities levy, up from an existing $500,000-a-year levy. Projects on the Bingham County district’s to-do list include roof repairs, snow removal equipment, upgrading sprinkler systems and repairing lights at the football field.

This plant facilities levy will need a two-thirds majority to pass.

Shoshone: The Magic Valley district is taking another run at a $6 million bond issue. The money would go toward a new multipurpose building for physical education classes, assemblies and community events, a new vocational building, expanding the alternative school and remodeling on the district’s main campus. A similar bond issue received 58 percent support in August, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority threshold.

Kellogg: The North Idaho district hopes to extend its supplemental levy. The levy would run $5.36 million over two years.

Minidoka County: The district is seeking a two-year, $4.45 million plant facilities supplemental levy. Minidoka County hopes to use a renewed levy to continue to buy laptops for ninth-graders, to update video and security systems and work on other maintenance projects.

Filer: The district is hoping to renew a two-year, $1 million supplemental levy, in order to keep pace with growth. The rural Twin Falls County district has seen student attendance grow steadily through the decade.

Garden Valley: The district is seeking to keep its current supplemental levy, with a two-year, $700,000 extension. 

College of Eastern Idaho: Less than six months after Bonneville County voters created Idaho’s fourth community college, Bingham County voters will decide whether to join the college’s new property taxing district.

The move would cost the average Bingham County homeowner $11 to $12 per year in taxes, but would also reduce fees Bingham County residents pay to attend classes at the fledgling college.

Unlike the Bonneville County proposal, which faced a two-thirds supermajority threshold, the Bingham County measure needs only a simple majority to pass.

Check back at Idaho Education News on Nov. 8 for complete election results.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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