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Levies passing in CdA, Post Falls, Sandpoint

Several north Idaho school districts asked voters today to approve levies to soften the blow of state budget cuts and expired federal funding.

Levies in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Lake Pend Oreille school districts were all passing in preliminary ballot counts Tuesday evening, a promising sign for districts facing devastating budget cuts. Only voters in Boundary County were voting down a levy request.

The Coeur d’Alene School District asked voters to pass a $12.8 million-a-year, two-year maintenance and operations levy. If passed, the levy would increase taxes by about $68 per year for the average homeowner in Coeur d’Alene, said Superintendent Hazel Bauman.

The levy appeared on the ballot in two parts. The first part asked voters to renew the current $7.8-million-a-year levy. The second asked voters to approve an additional $5 million a year for two years. The second part cannot pass unless the first does.

Voters showed support for the entire package at the polls Tuesday night, with nearly 62 percent voting to renew the existing levy and more than 85 percent voting to increase it.

“It’s absolutely good news if it continues to trend this way through the evening,” Bauman said. “We are optimistic – cautiously, but optimistic.”

If the entire levy fails, the district would have to cut 115 full-time and 162 part-time staff positions, all activities and some supplies and equipment. Even if the levy passes, the district still faces $3 to $4 million in state cuts, she said.

The Post Falls School District asked voters to approve a two-year levy totaling $2.6 million. The $880,000-per-year increase would replace expired federal stimulus funding, which helped prevent cuts following a $3 million loss in state funding over the past two years, said Superintendent Jerry Keane.

If the levy passes, taxes would increase about $12 per year for the average homeowner, Keane said. The levy would save the equivalent of eight or nine full-time teaching positions and at least 15 support staff positions.

Nearly 64 percent of voters are supporting the levy tonight.

“It appears like we’re doing pretty well,” Keane said of the early results Tuesday. “It means a lot to our future operations. We feel like under the economic circumstances, it’s really a good thing the community would support us.”

The Lake Pend Oreille School District, which includes Sandpoint, sought voter approval of a supplemental levy to raise $6.8 million a year for two years. If passed, a total of $13.6 million total would be levied in two years.

If passed, a homeowner whose home is worth $250,000 will pay $20.19, an increase of $3.44 cents from the $16.75 they currently pay, said Superintendent Dick Cvitanich.

Voters appeared to be in favor of the levy, with more than 62 percent voting yes.

If the levy passes, there still will be district-wide staffing reductions, Cvitanich said in a statement on the district’s Web site, but the funds would soften the blow of state budget cuts and recently expired federal stimulus funding.

The Boundary County School District also asked voters to approve a maintenance and operation levy. The $1.4 million-a-year, two-year levy would help compensate for state funding cuts. It would not pay for any new programs and, if passed, budget cuts still would be needed for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

But voters seemed to be saying no today, with nearly 54 percent voting against the levy.

A simple majority is required to pass school levies in Idaho.