West Bonner trustees discuss November levy proposal

PRIEST RIVER — Will students hear the sounds of dribbling basketballs or enthusiastic cheerleaders or the spike of volleyballs next school year?

West Bonner School Board trustees continue searching for solutions in the wake of their failed May election, when voters rejected the district’s two-year $9.4 million supplemental levy proposal.

Along with a handful of participants who did not identify themselves, trustees brainstormed ideas, reported on their research and outlined a mixture of solutions during a Thursday work session at the district office. They expressed a desire to be open with the community and look for opportunities to gain input.

In the coming weeks, trustees have difficult choices to make, as they try to salvage programs and “make ends meet” in the short-term, as trustee Troy Reinbold described.

“We’ve got to get on this,” said trustee Carlyn Barton.

Four of the five trustees and superintendent Branden Durst attended. Vice chair Susan Brown was not present; and chairman Keith Rutledge attended the first 20 minutes, based on what EdNews could observe in the live-stream video.

The meeting focused on finding ways to salvage both extracurricular and co-curricular activities, like band or drama. However, they briefly talked about another levy attempt this fall.

“What’s stopping us from doing another levy? Even the August levy?” one of the participants asked.

Margaret Hall, who led the meeting, presented a myriad of reasons why they could not meet the August deadline. This list includes the items she offered as evidence to the working group:

  • The final levy has to be approved.
  • The paperwork has to be sent to the board clerk.
  • Have to do a board resolution.
  • Figure out what language goes on the levy.
  • Have to hold another meeting.
  • Have to publicize it appropriately.

“So realistically there is no way we can do it. There are just too many pieces to put together at one time,” Hall said.

“My preference is to come up with something in November and if it doesn’t pass, we still have the May election,” she added. 

Another levy proposal is a decision that the full board will make sometime at a future meeting, she said.

The live-stream’s audio was of poor quality and none of the documents being discussed were presented on-screen so the online audience could not read the financial reports they referenced.

Hall kicked off the meeting with a financial statement that claimed a shortfall of $280,000 that would impact extra and co-curricular programs.

One of the participants said, “We’re either cutting coaching staff or the community is going to pitch in or we’re going to have sponsorships.”

Hall said the community identified their priorities: keeping their school resource office, athletics and extracurricular activities, and reinstating teaching positions.

The mixture of solutions included items on the following list:

  • The community raising funds.
  • Coaches donating their time.
  • A pay-to-play model for athletics.
  • Obtaining donations through Booster Club or other nonprofits.
  • Collecting money when patrons use school facilities.
  • Going to a four-day school week.
  • Have the field trips funded by the PTO/PTA.
  • Utilizing grant funds.
  • Ask businesses to sponsor families.
  • Create a crowdfunding effort.

Budget discussions continue Friday when the board is scheduled to meet with the negotiations committee. Board agendas can be found at this link.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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