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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lakeland school levy passes

Lakeland School District voters on Tuesday approved a $14.2 million tax proposal aimed at easing school overcrowding in booming northern Kootenai County.

The levy will pay for a new elementary school, an expansion of Lakeland High School and land for future secondary schools.

Voters approved the proposal 1,201 to 400. It needed support of two-thirds of voters.

“We’re very appreciative of the support that our patrons have given on this measure,” said Ron Schmidt, assistant superintendent, soon after the vote was tallied. “As we continue to grow we’re going to have to respond accordingly.”

The district has experienced about 3.5 percent student growth each of the past two years, said district business manager Tom Taggart. That pace is expected to continue.

Even with the new levy, taxpayers likely will see a decrease in next year’s tax rate, from $5.92 for each $1,000 assessed property value to $4.75, said Superintendent Chuck Kinsey. That’s due in part to the district’s increasing population and property values.

The expansion of the high school and construction of the new elementary building are planned to be completed in time for the 2007-2008 school year.

About $6.2 million of the levy will be used to build the district’s sixth elementary. The 350-student school will be constructed on Rice Road near Twin Lakes.

The site stirred some controversy because it is less than a mile from an explosives storage compound used by a commercial explosives manufacturer. The Northern Lakes Fire Department and county officials have said the company has a good safety record and that the facility is far enough from the school that children will be safe if there is ever an explosion.

An estimated $6.3 million will pay for the Lakeland High expansion, which will allow the district to move freshmen from junior highs to the high school.

The district, which serves nearly 4,500 students, estimates it will spend about $1 million to purchase land for a future junior high and high school. About $500,000 is slated for improvements at existing elementary schools, including the creation of computer and science labs at each school.