Large districts gearing up for bonds, levies

At least three of the state’s 10 largest school districts are preparing to ask voters to approve a supplemental levy or bond issue in 2014.

linda clark
Linda Clark

On Tuesday night, the Nampa School Board unanimously approved action to run a supplemental levy in 2014.

The Bonneville and Twin Falls districts have already agreed to run bond issues in March.

Several other districts are expected to run a supplemental levy or bond issues next year. Linda Clark, superintendent of the Meridian Joint School District has said for months that the state’s largest school district will likely seek a bond issue in 2014. The district recently conducted an email survey to gauge voter support for a possible bond issue.

Here’s an early look at what is planned for next year.

  • Bonneville: District leaders will run a $93 million bond issue on March 11. Faced with enrollment increases across the district, officials say they need the money to build a new high school, middle school and elementary school all at the same time.
  • Nampa: With the two-year supplemental set to expire in June, trustees agreed Tuesday to run another supplemental some time in 2014. They have not set a dollar amount or election date. The existing supplemental generates $1.6 million per year, and Interim Superintendent Pete Koehler has previously spoken in favor of running the supplemental in March. Koehler also stressed this levy should not be confused with this year’s levy and bond restructuring, designed to erase the district’s $5.3 million deficit. Officials say their needs include restoring staffs, rebuilding their fund balance and increasing teacher-student contact time. A community meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 17, district spokeswoman Allison Westfall said.
  • Twin Falls: The district will seek a nearly $74 million bond issue in March to build two new elementary schools and a middle school to meet enrollment increases, the Twin Falls Times-News reported. If approved, the bond would run for 25 years and also fund improvements to Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge high schools.

Under a recent Idaho law, only four dates per year are open for school elections. For 2014, those dates are March 11, May 20, Aug. 26 and Nov. 4.

Any district wishing to run a supplemental or bond in March must approve a resolution calling for the election and notify the county by Jan. 17, 60 days prior to the election.

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Passage of a bond issue is no slam dunk. In Idaho Falls, school officials failed twice at running bond issues and had to reduce the cost of their projects before voters approved a third measure in March 2012.

In neighboring Bonneville, the influential, newly elected mayor of Ammon, Dana Kirkham, asked several tough questions about the bond issue’s tax implications during a community meeting last week.

Kirkham, who did not indicate whether she would publicly back Bonneville’s proposed bond, said there is misinformation spreading in the community and a large outreach campaign will be necessary to secure passage.

“There is definitely a demographic that is not interested in any increase in their taxes for education,” Kirkham said Dec. 4. “If this is going to work, it will be because you got those people excited about it and they get out to vote.”

Chuck Shackett
Chuck Shackett

Bonneville Superintendent Chuck Shackett said a bond committee has already started surveying residents and spreading the word. Without a bond in 2014, Shackett predicted his district would need to look at massive changes, such as altering the calendar or schedule, dropping the ninth grade class from high school down to middle school and using more portable trailers as classrooms.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” Shackett told Idaho Education News.

Based on the most recent enrollment records available, Nampa is the third largest district in the state, while Bonneville ranks fifth and Twin Falls ranks eighth.