Idaho’s $1 billion school election day: a district-by-district breakdown

March 14 could be the biggest school election day in Idaho history.

Voters will decide on bonds and levies running more than $1 billion — making it, easily, the spendiest election day in the past several years.

For more insight, read Kevin Richert’s analysis on how this probable record-setting day might be the last election day of its kind. 

About $700 million of the March 14 bond issues and levies have a set lifespan. If passed, the bond issues would run from 10 to 30 years. The levies would run from one to 10 years.

Then there’s Lewiston’s five-year supplemental levy, for a projected $100 million.

Then there’s Coeur d’Alene, which is using a clause in state law to pursue a permanent, $25 million-a-year supplemental levy. If this levy passes, this could push the election day pricetag above the $1 billion mark.

To help you figure out what’s at stake, we’ve collected sample ballots from the 47 districts seeking a ballot measure next month.

And since school elections are confusing, we spell out the rules about bond issues and levies here.

Here are district-by-district thumbnails:

Nampa: $210.2 million bond issue.

What’s at stake? In the biggest measure on the March 14 ballot, Nampa is seeking money for a host of projects, including $100 million to replace Nampa High School; $30 million for a new career and technical center; $26 million for renovations at Skyview High School; and $25.5 million to replace Centennial Elementary School.

What’s the process? With a successful bond issue, a district enters into long-term debt to bankroll building projects. All bond issues require a two-thirds supermajority to pass.

Kuna: $111.4 million bond issue.

What’s at stake? The growing suburban district is looking at several projects, including a new elementary school; a classroom wing and athletic facilities at Swan Falls High School; and renovations and additions at Fremont and Kuna middle schools.

Lewiston: Five-year, $100 million supplemental levy (projected).

What’s at stake? The levy accounts for 36% of Lewiston’s annual budget. The money would go toward staffing, career-technical education, and K-3 reading, among other areas.

What’s the process? In Lewiston’s case, it’s complicated. Most supplemental levies have a set price tag. As a “charter” school district that predates statehood, Lewiston can run a supplemental levy for a set tax rate — in this case, $395 per $100,000 of taxable value. This levy would generate a projected $100 over five years, Superintendent Lance Hansen said.

Lewiston’s current levy, $420 per $100,000 of taxable value, brought in about $19.6 million this year, Hansen said.

In all cases, supplemental levies can cover a variety of projects or day-to-day needs. All supplemental levies require only a simple majority to pass.

 Jefferson County: Two separate bond issues, totaling $80 million.

What’s at stake? The big bond issue, at $75 million, would go largely toward a new middle school. The $5 million bond issue would add a gym at Roberts Elementary School.

Fremont County: $59.98 million bond issue.

What’s at stake? Additions at several schools, including CTE and agricultural additions at North Fremont High School.

Coeur d’Alene: Permanent, $25 million-a-year supplemental levy. Five-year, $25 million plant facilities levy.

What’s at stake? The supplemental levy accounts for about a fourth of Coeur d’Alene’s annual budget. The biggest chunk of the money, more than $7.2 million, goes to teacher and staff salaries. About $4.6 million goes into an array of maintenance areas, such as transportation staffing.

The separate plant facilities levy would go largely into deferred maintenance, with a total of $2.5 million going toward safety and security.

What’s the process? Most supplemental levies run only one to two years, subject to renewal. But Coeur d’Alene is using a state law that allows for a permanent levy, with simple majority support. Districts can seek permanent taxing authority if a levy has been on the books for at least seven straight years, and if it accounts for at least a fifth of the district’s maintenance and operations fund.

Plant facilities levies cover maintenance and upkeep projects. They require a supermajority of 55% to two-thirds to pass, depending on their size. Coeur d’Alene’s levy will require a 55% majority to pass.

Cassia County: Ten-year, $32.7 million plant facilities levy.

What’s at stake? Roof repairs are the big-ticket item, at $7.5 million. The district also proposes spending $6.3 million to swap out aging technology.

Oneida County: $29 million bond issue.

What’s at stake? A new elementary school.

Lakeland: Two-year, $19.04 million supplemental levy; six-year, $6.88 million plant facilities levy.

What’s at stake? The bulk of the supplemental levy, more than $12.2 million, would go into teacher and staff salaries.

Pocatello-Chubbuck: Two-year, $16.5 million supplemental levy.

What’s at stake? Largely salaries, to the tune of close to $11 million. This proposal represents a reduction from the current two-year, $18.5 million levy.

Idaho Falls: Two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levy.

What’s at stake? More than $10.8 million for salaries and benefits.

 Post Falls: Two-year, $11.92 million supplemental levy.

What’s at stake? More than $4.1 million would go into salaries; nearly $2.4 million would go into building maintenance.

Twin Falls: Two-year, $11.4 million supplemental levy.

What’s at stake: $8 million for staff salaries; $2.6 million for security, including school resource officers and security guards in elementary schools.

Parma: Ten-year, $8.55 million levy for the Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency, which provides career-technical education, special education and alternative education for five school districts.

Notus: Ten-year, $3.56 million plant facilities levy; 10-year, $2.66 million levy for COSSA.

Castleford: $6 million bond issue.

American Falls: Two-year, $5.5 million supplemental levy.

Boundary County: Two-year, $4.8 million supplemental levy.

St. Maries: Two-year, $4.14 million supplemental levy.

Blackfoot: Two-year, $4 million supplemental levy.

Emmett: Two-year, $3 million supplemental levy.

Kootenai: Two-year, $2.75 million supplemental levy.

Jerome: Two-year, $2.5 million supplemental levy.

Weiser: Four-year, $2 million plant facilities levy.

Kendrick: Two-year, $1.5 million supplemental levy; five-year, $300,000 plant facilities levy.

Potlatch: One-year, $1.6 million supplemental levy.

Jerome: Two-year, $1.52 million supplemental levy.

Challis: Two-year, $1.4 million supplemental levy.

Snake River: Two-year, $1.4 million supplemental levy.

Bear Lake County: Two-year, $1.3 million supplemental levy.

Cascade: Two-year, $1.3 million supplemental levy.

Genesee: One-year, $1.18 million supplemental levy.

Payette: Two-year, $1 million supplemental levy.

Grace: Two-year, $900,000 supplemental levy.

Meadows Valley: Two-year, $746,800 supplemental levy.

West Jefferson: Two-year, $720,000 supplemental levy.

Soda Springs: One-year, $698,000 supplemental levy.

Camas County: Two two-year supplemental levies, totaling $600,000.

Horseshoe Bend: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy.

Sugar-Salem: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy.

Hansen: Two-year, $580,000 supplemental levy.

Ririe: Two-year, $580,000 supplemental levy.

Butte County: Two-year, $320,000 supplemental levy; two-year, $206,000 plant facilities levy.

Clark County: Two-year, $500,000 supplemental levy.

Highland: One-year, $499,000 supplemental levy.

Swan Valley: Five-year, $375,000 plant facilities levy.

West Side: One-year, $90,000 supplemental levy.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

Kevin Richert

About 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 KIVI 6 On Your Side; "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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