December 10, 1997 in Nation/World

Post Falls Board Seeks $18 Million Bond Thanks, But No Thanks, School District Tells Taxpayers Group

Laura Shireman Staff writer

The Post Falls School District will ask voters for nearly $18 million early next year, about $4 million more than a local property taxpayers group had promised to support.

If passed, the district’s levy would raise at least $17.97 million to build a high school. The amount was approved at Monday night’s school board meeting.

The Kootenai County Property Owners Association had pledged earlier this week to support a $14 million levy. But some strings were attached - namely, an end to double-shifting at the middle school.

The school board’s decision didn’t sit well with the property owners group.

“You could have heard some of the most incredible hate speech in North Idaho coming from the man presiding over the (school) board,” said Don Morgan, a member of the property owners association. “They didn’t just say ‘no’; they said it with contempt.”

School board member Ed Adamchak presided over the meeting and opposed the association’s suggestions.

The association is devoted to keeping property taxes down and is a frequent foe of school bond issues.

In a Monday press conference and at the school board meeting, the association announced support for a school bond if the district immediately ended double-shifting and if the bond did not exceed $14 million. The association also recommended building a middle school instead of a high school and upgrading facilities at other buildings so year-round schooling could ease crowding.

“We have been committed to a new high school for the last two years and we did that through public input and public meetings,” said school board member Richard Wallace. “We did appreciate their offer. It just didn’t mesh with the plans of the district.”

The association’s proposal fails to solve school crowding because the district would soon need to build more facilities, Adamchak said.

“Their proposal came without any input from parents, teachers, community leaders, business owners or even any administrative staff with the school district,” he said. “It takes a whole community to run a school district.”

The school board approved a bond package to build a high school instead of complying with the association’s wishes.

The bond issue has two options, and voters may choose to vote for one or both.

Option A would raise $17.97 million to build, landscape and furnish a new high school. The school would house 1,400 students in ninth through 12th grades.

Option B would raise $2.89 million to replace the heating system at the current high school and build an auditorium, tennis courts and a football stadium as well. The stadium would include an all-weather track, bleachers, lighting, a press box, a concession stand and restrooms.

There isn’t a huge difference between what the association proposed and what the school district is asking, said Jerry Keane, assistant superintendent for the Post Falls School District. He hopes the association would be willing to discuss the plan, he said.

Discussion is exactly what the property owners association wants, said Dee Lawless, president of the property owners association.

“They (school board members) hadn’t had a chance to study the proposal and we hoped they’d wait a week and talk with us about it,” Lawless said. “They could reverse their decision and sit down with us and we hope they will.”

But numerous school district officials, parents and the majority of voters have supported the idea of a new high school. They’ve voted in favor of it three times since 1994, each time gaining a little more support while falling short of the two-thirds supermajority required by Idaho law to pass a property tax levy.

Many have blamed the property owners association for the failure of past school bonds and the fact that the Post Falls School District has the second lowest levy rate per $1,000 of property value in the state. It currently assesses $4.57 for every $1,000.

“The next district lower than us is the Bonner District and look at the situation there. They’re so broke they can hardly open their doors,” Adamchak said.

Lawless sees things differently. The Kootenai County Property Owners Association protects taxpayers from excessive property taxes many can’t afford, she said.

“My property taxes in 13 years have exactly doubled,” she said. “Thank God it (the two-thirds majority rule) is in the constitution. I hope they’ll never change that.” , DataTimes

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