An unusual $78.1 million election day for Idaho schools

Many big-ticket ballot measures are on hold — and all the polling places will be closed — but an election day is still approaching for 15 of Idaho’s 115 school districts.

They will ask voters to approve more than $78.1 million in bond issues and levies.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, three school districts decided to yank bond issues off this month’s ballot: West Ada, Idaho Falls and Emmett. (West Ada will still seek a levy to cover day-to-day operations, and it’s the spendiest school measure on this month’s ballot.)

The pandemic will have one more tangible effect on this election. The state has shifted to an unprecedented vote-by-mail election.

How to vote 

First, the ground rules for this unusual election.

In order to vote — in school elections, or May primary elections, or all of the above — you need to request an absentee ballot.

You must request a ballot from your county clerk or the secretary of state’s office by May 19, the regularly scheduled election day.

Then you need to mail in your ballot and get to your county clerk by June 2. Votes will be counted and results announced on the night of June 2.

School ballot measures

West Ada: Two-year, $28 million supplemental levy. While West Ada’s bond issue is on hold, the state’s largest school district will still seek to renew an expiring levy, which has been worth $14 million annually for the past eight years. The levy accounts for about 5 percent of West Ada’s budget, and the district says it will help preserve school days and current staffing levels.

Jerome: $26 million bond issue. The Magic Valley district’s top priority is building a new elementary school. Adding a new K-6 elementary school would also help ease overcrowding at Jerome’s middle school, which would serve seventh- and eighth-graders. Bond issues require a two-thirds supermajority to pass. (More coverage from Ryan Blake of the Twin Falls Times-News.)

Ririe: $7 million bond issue. The East Idaho district hopes to use proceeds from the bond issue to replace its athletic facility. The district was ordered to close the old facility after inspectors found mold and structural problems. Money also would go toward a bus garage and maintenance facility, new buses and a greenhouse.

Mountain Home: Two-year, $5.4 million supplemental levy. Unchanged from a levy the district has collected for the past eight years. The levy accounts for about 11 percent of the district’s budget, Superintendent James Gilbert says, covering items such as staffing, maintenance and student activities.

Mountain View: One-year, $3.9 million supplemental levy. The proposal would replace a smaller, $3.09 million levy approved a year ago.

Middleton: Two-year, $3 million supplemental levy. An increase from the Canyon County district’s existing, $1.31 million-a-year levy.

Wendell: Two-year, $1.2 million supplemental levy. The Magic Valley district is seeking to renew an identical levy from 2018. (More from the Times-News.)

White Pine: One-year, $880,000 supplemental levy. A renewal of an identical, expiring levy.

Firth: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy. A proposal to renew a levy that has been in place the past two years.

Salmon River: One-year, $525,000 supplemental levy. This would renew an identical, existing levy.

Bliss: Ten-year, $500,000 plant facilities levy. The rural Magic Valley district says its levy would go toward acquiring sites for school buildings, building construction and renovation, and bus purchases. This levy will need a 60 percent supermajority to pass. (More from the Times-News.)

Nezperce: One-year, $445,000 supplemental levy. A renewal of the district’s current levy.

Cottonwood: One-year, $325,000 supplemental levy. Another levy renewal; the north-central Idaho district has collected an identical amount the past two years.

Rockland: One-year, $210,000 supplemental levy. An extension of the district’s current levy, which expires this year.

Swan Valley: Two-year, $120,000 plant facilities levy. The rural Bonneville County district says the levy would go toward a variety of building needs, from construction and remodeling to destruction and land acquisition. The district has tried three larger levies in the past 12 months, all unsuccessful. A six-year, $480,000 proposal failed in March. This levy will need a 55 percent majority to pass.

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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