Voters in Bonner and Boundary counties turned down school levies Tuesday night, probably forcing the districts to cut programs and close classrooms this fall.
Opposition to the levies in both counties was stiff.
Critics in Boundary County took out newspaper and radio ads. A Bonner County group opposed to increased property taxes used a phone tree to rally people against the measure.
Boundary County’s levy failed by 159 votes, with an unofficial final tally of 1,131 to 1,290.
“It went down worse this time than it did the last three times,” Superintendent Reid Straabe said of the district’s $490,000 levy.
“Evidently, people believe that we can live with the cuts,” Straabe said. “The ‘no’ voters must have been out there beating the path pretty hard. I thought we were going to make it this time.”
Bonner County proposed a $995,000 levy to maintain schools and buy classroom supplies. The measure fell short by more than 600 votes, 1,022 to 1,665.
The county needed the cash to fix four schools with dilapidated roofs.
Water damage at Priest River Elementary is so bad the district will likely have to close six classrooms, said Superintendent Max Harrell.
Water has seeped into light fixtures and electrical wiring, creating a safety hazard for students and staff, he said.
Without the levy, Harrell said, students will be moved into the gymnasium and cafeteria for classes next year. About $850,000 of the levy was earmarked for roof repairs, including one at Washington Elementary. A leaky roof there has weakened a cinderblock wall and could force the closure of some classrooms.
The remaining $145,000 was to be spent on new textbooks and other classroom material.
In Boundary County, Straabe said the defeat means new textbooks are out, employee salaries will be frozen, the number of field trips will be reduced, and the budget for extra-curricular activities will be slashed by 50 percent.
“We don’t know where the cuts in the sports programs will be yet, but I will be meeting with the coaches and principals to decide,” Straabe said. “This will certainly mean there will be less for students to do after school, and I expect we will face a decrease in staff morale. It will be a tough start next year.”
Bonner County had already made cuts in its budget to decrease the size of the proposed levy. Athletic programs were cut 10 percent, and no money was set aside for across-the-board teacher pay raises.
The district also postponed buying new buses. That means the existing fleet must service two or three routes, administrators said.
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