March 10 Idaho Election Much More Than Presidential Primary: 41 School District Levies Up For Vote


Heading into a pivotal community election, Kamiah is a community divided.

Supporters are helping getting the word out about a supplemental property tax levy for the north-central Idaho school district. But opponents don’t like the prospect of a tax increase, and Superintendent Steve Higgins is sensitive to their concerns.

“It’s a small rural town that people retire to,” he said Tuesday. “It’s not that they are against kids going to school. They just see it from their side.”

Voters wait in line as the polls open at Pierce Park Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. CREDIT: Otto Kitsinger/AP

Voters wait in line as the polls open at Pierce Park Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. CREDIT: Otto Kitsinger/AP

On Tuesday, 41 of Idaho’s 115 school districts will go to voters with levy proposals.

For some districts, the stakes are particularly high. A year ago, after a failed levy, Kamiah was forced to close its middle school. In other districts, the proposals are familiar, reruns of levies voters have approved for years. But the Nampa School District is taking a second run at a levy, four months after a proposal fell a scant 11 votes short of passing.

Tuesday’s school elections coincide with presidential primaries — and all told, $174.3 million in spending requests will be on the line. That’s considerably less than recent years, when March school elections ran on a standalone ballot. A year ago, schools sought $485 million in bond issues and levies. In 2018, requests totaled $410 million; in 2017, the number was $715 million.

And all March school elections might become a thing of the past. On Friday, the House passed a bill to eliminate March and August school election dates, forcing schools to seek bond issues and levies in May and November. Supporters say the move would alleviate voter confusion and improve turnout. The Senate Education Committee hasn’t taken up the bill.

Here’s a rundown of Tuesday’s elections:

Pocatello-Chubbuck: Ten-year, $80.6 million plant facilities levy. The district is hoping to convince voters to renew a levy that has been on the books since 1961. Districts use plant facilities levies for building maintenance, renovation and construction, security upgrades and equipment for buildings. The threshold to pass a plant facilities levy varies from 55 percent to a two-thirds supermajority, depending on the overall size of the request. Pocatello-Chubbuck’s levy requires 55 percent support to pass.

Nampa: Two-year, $25.79 million supplemental levy. Nampa is coming back with a larger request. The vast majority of the money would go into three areas: teachers and staffing; classroom curriculum and technology; and facilities upgrades. Nampa has collected a supplemental levy for more than a decade, including nearly $9.4 million this year. All supplemental levies need a simple majority to pass.

Vallivue: Two-year, $9 million supplemental levy. The big-ticket items for the Canyon County district include extracurricular programs, textbooks, curricular materials and classroom supplies. Vallivue has collected an identical levy for the past decade.

Caldwell: Two-year, $8.2 million supplemental levy. Caldwell hopes to use a renewed levy to pay for extracurricular programs, Advanced Placement courses and school resource officers, among other initiatives. The proposal represents an increase from the $2.5 million collected this year.

Kellogg: Two-year, $5.97 million supplemental levy. An increase from the North Idaho district’s current supplemental levy, worth nearly $2.7 million this year.

Orofino: Two-year, $5.37 million supplemental levy. Unchanged from the district’s current levy.

Preston: Five-year, $4.5 million plant facilities levy. The district hopes to renew its existing plant facilities levy to cover a variety of projects — including remodeling old high school classrooms; resurfacing busing areas; repairing and resurfacing a track; and acquiring land for new school sites.

Cassia County: Two-year, $4.39 million supplemental levy. The big-ticket items for the district include extracurricular activities, classroom supplies and adopting a new science curriculum. The proposal represents an increase from the $1.6 million Cassia County is collecting this year.

American Falls: Six-year, $3.88 million plant facilities levy. American Falls hopes to use plant facilities money to refurbish the interior of its 42-year-old William Thomas Middle School. The to-do list includes roof replacements, technology upgrades and enhanced security systems/ The district is collecting a $600,000 plant facilities levy this year, and the renewal requires a 55 percent majority to pass.

Middleton: Two-year, $3 million supplemental levy. Middleton hopes to use levy dollars on curriculum adoption and implementation; working one-to-one technology into fourth through 12th grades, building repairs and upgrades. This is an increase from the Canyon County district’s current levy of about $1.3 million.

Aberdeen: Two-year, $1.9 million supplemental levy.

Potlatch: One-year, $1.75 million supplemental levy.

Kimberly: Two-year, $1.6 million supplemental levy.

Kamiah: Two-year, $1.29 million supplemental levy. The middle school closure has created a space crunch at Kamiah’s elementary school and high school. Some janitorial closets have been converted into space for small group work. The gyms are used from morning through evening, squeezing out most community events.

If the levy passes, Higgins says, Kamiah will reopen its middle school in the fall, work on building maintenance projects and try to add career-technical and performing arts classes. If the levy fails, he says, the district might have to reduce staffing numbers through attrition. Maintenance projects will remain on hold, and student activities could be in jeopardy.

Shelley: Two-year, $1.15 million supplemental levy.

Hansen: Five-year, $1 million plant facilities levy, requiring a 55 percent majority to pass.

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

Troy: One-year, $995,000 supplemental levy.

Genesee: One-year, $935,000 supplemental levy.

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

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

Kendrick: One-year, $810,000 supplemental levy.

Buhl: Two-year, $700,000 supplemental levy.

North Gem: Two-year, $700,000 supplemental levy.

Weiser: Two-year, $700,000 supplemental levy.

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

Glenns Ferry: Two-year, $650,000 supplemental levy.

Castleford: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy.

Shoshone: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy.

Valley: Two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy.

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

Bliss: Ten-year, $500,000 plant facilities levy, requiring a 55 percent majority to pass.

Culdesac: Two-year, $500,000 supplemental levy.

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

Swan Valley: Six-year, $480,000 plant facilities levy, requiring a 55 percent majority to pass.

Richfield: Two-year, $450,000 supplemental levy.

Grace: One-year, $300,000 plant facilities levy, requiring 60 percent voter approval. One-year, $150,000 plant facilities levy.

Challis: Five-year, $250,000 plant facilities levy, requiring a 55 percent majority to pass.

Council: Two-year, $170,000 supplemental levy.

Mackay: Two-year, $150,000 supplemental levy.

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

Originally posted on on March 10, 2020. This article is re-published with permission. 

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