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Monday, August 10, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho voters back schools

Tax measures passing in several cities

North Idaho voters were in a generous mood Tuesday, approving school tax measures from Bonners Ferry to St. Maries.

The Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls school districts had strong voter support for replacing two-year supplemental operating levies, and Post Falls voters also passed a major school construction bond measure.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane said Tuesday night. “It’s a real tribute to our community. Their support for our schools has been unbending over the years.”

The $19.5 million bond was passing Tuesday night with 80 percent of the vote, well ahead of the supermajority required for bond measures. The money would be spent on a new elementary school and expansion of the middle and high schools.

Post Falls voters also agreed to a two-year levy to collect up to $4.7 million a year. That measure was passing with 81 percent of the vote.

The Coeur d’Alene School District asked voters to bump up the annual school levy by a little more than $2 million, to $15 million a year. Voters agreed – 72 percent said yes to the levy increase, which is earmarked for hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes and buying new textbooks and instructional materials.

“It’s amazing,” school board Chairwoman Christa Hazel said Tuesday night.

“We as a district are absolutely grateful to the community for the support they continue to show us and the willingness of the electorate to continue to provide us with the tools that we need that go above and beyond what the state and federal government provide us,” Hazel said.

The Coeur d’Alene School Board asked voters for a higher levy amount to address class sizes that grew larger and aging textbooks – both consequences of deep state cuts in education in recent years.

“As a parent, I am most excited about getting up-to-date textbooks in our math classes,” Hazel said.

The district also plans to hire about five new elementary teachers next school year and another five or six the year after that to ease pressure on classes. The six middle and high schools will split six new full-time equivalent positions, with the principals choosing how to strategically lower class sizes.

Likewise, Post Falls will use its levy money to help catch up with replacing older school buses, textbooks and technology.

About $10 million of the 20-year bond will build a new elementary school for 500 students on the fast-growing east side. The school will open in fall 2016 near Post Falls High School.

Another $4 million will be spent adding a second story with 12 new classrooms at River City Middle School, and $4.5 million will go to adding a performing arts auditorium and auxiliary gymnasium at the high school. The remaining $1 million from the bond will go toward two new classrooms at West Ridge Elementary School, security enhancements in all buildings, and energy efficiency and heating upgrades at various schools.

South of Coeur d’Alene, the Kootenai Joint School District’s levy for $900,000 a year was ahead with 67 percent of the vote, and the Plummer-Worley Joint School District’s $550,000-a-year levy was passing with 59 percent of the vote.

Voters also approved school levies in the Lake Pend Oreille, West Bonner County, Boundary County and St. Maries Joint school districts.

Recent school levies and bonds also have fared well in Washington. Last month, 18 of 21 school tax proposals on the ballot in Spokane County were approved, most by overwhelming margins.

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