What’s on the ballot? Tuesday’s school elections across Idaho

Voters in one district will weigh in on a nasty recall election.

In eight other districts, voters will decide the fate of more than $172 million in bond issues and levies.

Here’s a look ahead to Tuesday’s school elections across Idaho:

Middleton recall elections

A festering public dispute comes to a head in this Canyon County district, as three of the district’s five trustees face recall elections.

Trustees Tim Winkle and Aleisha McConkie face recalls, stemming from their vote not to extend Middleton High School Principal Ben Merrill’s contract in May. Marianne Blackwell also faces a recall. She opposed the board’s decision on Merrill’s contract, but opponents say she has violated ethical standards  and “set an unprofessional and unacceptable precedent for school board trustees.”

All three trustees are fighting the recall.

“I have had to make hard choices based on what would be in the best interest of our district and I will stand behind my votes,” said Winkle.

“I am confident that I can continue to be an asset to the community and school district as your school board trustee,” said McConkie.

“It has been a challenging year for our district and community,” said Blackwell. “I have remained true to what I believe is best for students and our schools.”

In order for a trustee to be recalled, a majority of voters must support the trustee’s ouster. In addition, the number of votes for recall must exceed the number of votes a trustee received in their previous election. Winkle received 175 votes in 2015; McConkie and Blackwell received 120 votes and 67 votes, respectively.

The Middleton district is already in the midst of turmoil. Superintendent Josh Middleton resigned in June, blaming unnamed elected officials for creating a “hostile work environment.” Sherawn Reberry was named new superintendent in July.

Bonneville: $42.7 million bond issue.

The measure would cover the construction of an $18.7 million elementary school and just over $24 million in upgrades to both Bonneville and Hillcrest high schools.

Upgrade plans include eight new science labs at each high school and up to eight new special-needs classrooms at the new elementary school.

Administrators in the growing East Idaho district say increased property valuations and new construction will cover the debt service tied to the measure. Local opposition group, D93 Citizens, has urged voters to reject the measure, calling it “extravagant” and “outrageous.” Bonneville is one of the fastest growing districts in Idaho, and securing local revenue to fund structural upgrades has not been easy. Due largely to its rural and agricultural tax base, the district generates less local revenue than other districts its size. As a result, Bonneville patrons pay one of the highest levy rates in Idaho.

A year ago, voters approved a $35.3 million bond issue for a new middle school. Three months later, the district’s new $63.5 million Thunder Ridge High School opened its doors.

All bond issues require a two-thirds supermajority to pass.

Lakeland: $70.9 million bond issue.

The North Idaho district is planning several changes in an attempt to accommodate an anticipated growth spurt: building a new high school; converting the existing high school into a middle school; making improvements at Timberlake Junior High School, which would be expanded to incorporate sixth grade; and making additions at Timberlake High School, including a new auditorium. District officials anticipate enrollment to increase by nearly 1,000 students by 2025.

Oneida County: $17.35 million bond issue.

This district in remote Southeast Idaho is again seeking to replace Malad Elementary School, demolish the existing elementary school and tear down its old high school. In March, a smaller, $14.85 million proposal fell just short of the two-thirds supermajority required to pass.

Sugar-Salem: $17 million bond issue.

The East Idaho school district is seeking to replace a junior high school built in 1954. District officials say the building is already over capacity, and enrollment growth places increased pressure on the junior high.

Filer: $8.55 million bond issue.

The big-ticket item for the rural Magic Valley school district is a $5.2 million expansion and renovation of its career-technical center. Remaining proceeds would go toward classroom expansion at its intermediate school, improvements at the middle school auditorium, parking lot improvements at elementary schools and acquiring land for a new middle school. Voters rejected a $9.9 million bond issue in March.

Kellogg: $7.9 million bond issue.

The North Idaho district is taking another run at a proposal for additions at Pinehurst Elementary School and Kellogg Middle School. The bond issue would also cover repair projects across the district. A similar proposal received 63 percent support in May, falling short of a two-thirds supermajority.

Shoshone: $6.83 million bond issue.

The Magic Valley district hopes to add a new vocational building and multipurpose facility, add four classrooms and make modifications at its high school and elementary school. Three similar bond issues have failed, most recently in March 2018.

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

This represents an increase from the two-year, $700,000 levy voters approved in May 2017. The Canyon County district has collected a supplemental levy since 1978. Unlike bond issues, supplemental levies need only a simple majority to pass.

Idaho Education News reporter Devin Bodkin contributed to this story.


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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