April 22, 1997 in Nation/World

Judge Rejects Funding Plan For School Building Proposal Is A Good Idea, He Says, But Fails Legal Requirements

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A judge has rejected a Coeur d’Alene School District plan to build a $1.5 million support services building without going to voters.

District Judge James Judd said the district’s plan would save money, improve efficiency and better serve the public, but did not constitute a “necessary” expense.

Idaho law allows judges to give permission to issue municipal bonds for buildings that are deemed “ordinary and necessary” expenses.

“To the extent the district desires or needs modern, efficient and economical school support services facilities, the proposed improvements are necessary,” Judd said. “Nevertheless, such improvements are not constitutionally necessary, that is indispensable.”

The ruling, issued Thursday but received by district workers Monday, came as a blow to administrators.

“We are, of course, disappointed,” said district spokeswoman Janet Feiler. “But we really haven’t had time to sit down with anybody and talk about it.”

The plan had called for issuing $1.1 million in bonds for a building that would consolidate food service, transportation, maintenance and administration offices on a site near the new middle school.

Additional costs would be paid through the sale of the district’s Government Way bus barn.

District officials say the proposal would have saved taxpayers up to $95,000 a year in rent and consolidated facilities. It also would eliminate the liability of operating in an administration office that doesn’t meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But district officials had feared voters would not see it that way.

They worried they might not get the 66-2/3 percent needed to pass the bond. Even if they did, some officials said, a tough campaign might make it less likely the district could pass more important bonds later.

“I think we’d have had difficulty getting that kind of support,” Superintendent Doug Cresswell said. “I think the voters believe that if they’re going to spend their money they want it to go for instructional facilities.”

In his ruling, Judd praised the proposal. He also said he would consider the $338,000 expense of bringing an existing administration building into ADA compliance an appropriate candidate for judicial confirmation.

But approving the current proposal without a vote would be to “open up a Pandora’s box of debt financing,” Judd wrote.

Cresswell said the district hasn’t figured out its next move, but is not likely to scrap the plan. The district could put the plan to a vote, or it could set aside money to pay for it down the line.

“Those are really the only two options,” he said.

For now, “we’ll continue to operate as we have, but it’s not the most cost efficient and effective way to operate.”

, DataTimes


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