Treasure Valley superintendents pitch their ballot measures

Tuesday’s elections are not just about schools. Local education leaders say they are about legacies.

On Thursday, West Ada, Boise and Kuna superintendents made impassioned cases for their districts’ ballot measures. For all three superintendents, it comes down to a question of providing modern, safe schools for students today, and in the future.

“Our facilities don’t match the quality of teaching and learning in our district,” Boise superintendent Don Coberly said at a City Club of Boise forum.

Schools across Idaho are seeking $715 million on Tuesday, but Boise’s bond issue is the biggest ballot issue of the bunch. Boise’s $172.5 million bond issue would replace several aging schools, build a new elementary school in Southeast Boise’s Harris Ranch neighborhood and upgrade schools across the district.

The bond issue requires a two-thirds majority to pass — and in the final days before the election, an opposition group has emerged. Coberly says the bond issue would not raise the district’s property tax rate, and cover 22 building projects. “Those are needs, not wants.”

West Ada, meanwhile, has a $160 million plant facilities levy on its ballot. The state’s largest school district would use the 10-year levy for building maintenance, but also to acquire land for new school sites. Based on current enrollment trends, West Ada might need to build five elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools in the next decade, Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells said Thursday.

Without the levy, West Ada would be forced into “terrible” budget decisions that siphon general fund dollars into building upkeep, she said. But Ranells believes her district will secure the 60 percent majority needed to keep the plant facilities levy on the books.

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“We have never lost this particular levy election,” she said.

Kuna, meanwhile, has a doubleheader on Tuesday’s ballot: a $40 million bond issue and a two-year, $5 million supplemental levy. While the bond issue requires a two-thirds supermajority, the supplemental levy requires only a simple majority to pass.

After 15 years of rapid growth that has doubled enrollment, Kuna is in a situation it could not have envisioned. Suddenly, the suburban district needs a second high school and a second middle school, Superintendent Wendy Johnson said. Meanwhile, she said, the supplemental levy would help the district update its curriculum materials. Some schools are still using textbooks that list Bill Clinton as president, said Johnson, drawing a few laughs from the audience.

Read more: Click here for the Idaho Education News-Boise State Public Radio series on the Boise bond issue and Idaho school elections.