Kootenai County voters shoot down levies for Coeur d’Alene, Lakeland schools in close votes Tuesday night
March 15, 2023 Updated Wed., March 15, 2023 at 9:38 p.m.
Coeur d’Alene Public Schools officials say program and staffing cuts are likely after voters on Tuesday rejected a $25 million levy.
The board of Coeur d’Alene Public Schools has called a special meeting for Monday at which they’ll have to forge a path forward after the failure of a pair of levies intended to pay for staff and school construction next fall.
“We are in uncharted waters here, to be honest,” Superintendent Shon Hocker said Wednesday morning.
A $25 million levy intended to pay operating costs not covered by the state failed by 361 votes, or a little more than 2% of the more than 17,000 votes cast. The money is intended to supplement funds provided by the Idaho Legislature for public education, and the district said that failure of the levy likely will lead to losses of staff, including school resource officers and classroom assistants at district buildings, as well as extracurricular programs and technological offerings.
Hocker said the supplemental levy pays for roughly 330 district employees, and makes up a quarter of the district’s annual budget.
“We would be having to cut a lot of people,” Hocker said.
The existing levy is set to expire at the end of this school year, meaning any budget cuts would need to be made over the summer.
Hocker said the school board had called a special meeting for Monday at which they could decide to try again on the May ballot. A resolution would need to be forwarded to the Kootenai County Elections Office by March 27 in order to appear on the May 16 ballot, and district budgets must be finalized by July 1 under state law, Hocker said.
The board could decide to pass just a two-year levy, instead of one with indeterminate length, which was what was on Tuesday’s ballot, Hocker said.
“I suspect our board will review all their options,” he said.
The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, which has opposed funding requests at the ballot for local schools and endorsed candidates for boards interested in tightening budgets, publicly opposed the Coeur d’Alene budget request. Brent Regan, chair of the committee, said he believed the indeterminate length of the bond paired with the dollar amount requested resulted in the levy being defeated.
“In tough economic times, there are a lot of people that are living on fixed incomes,” Regan said.
Hocker said voters had approved supplemental levies for decades in Coeur d’Alene, and the defeat of the ballot measure came as a shock to many at the district.
“I think it’s devastating,” he said. “This is a very tumultuous time. We’ve never been here before.”
Voters also rejected a five-year, $25 million safety and operations levy that would have funded security projects at schools and deferred maintenance on heating and air conditioning equipment, roofing, plumbing and other concerns. That measure required 55% of votes in favor to pass, but received 54.5% of the vote.
A Post Falls School District supplemental levy of nearly $12 million for the next two years was approved by voters, with 61.2% of votes in favor.
Voters in both Kootenai and Bonner counties defeated a supplemental levy request of more than $19 million by the Lakeland Joint School District for two years beginning in 2023, with 53% of voters opposing the measure.
Voters also shot down a six-year, $6.6 million levy for repairs and safety construction at Lakeland. Votes against the measure made up 51.2% of the vote. It required a 55% approval in order to pass.
The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee was neutral on the Post Falls levy, but had supported Lakeland’s request, Regan said.
A two-year, $2.7 million supplemental levy was approved by voters in the Kootenai Joint School District, which operates Harrison Elementary and Kootenai Jr. Sr. High School, both in Harrison. Voters approved the levy with 56.9% of Tuesday’s vote.
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