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West Bonner levy officially on ballot

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | April 2, 2024 1:00 AM

PRIEST RIVER — The West Bonner school district officially has a $4.65 million levy on the May 21 ballot. 

Language on the levy was adopted at a special March 18 board meeting following a March 12 meeting that approved moving forward with the levy. 

Voting to approve the ballot language were board chair Margy Hall, and trustees Troy Reinbold, Ann Yount, and Paul Turco. Voting to abstain was trustee Kathy Nash. 

The vote closely mirrors a vote to put the levy to voters in which Hall, Reinbold, Yount and Turco voted to put a supplemental levy to voters with Nash voting against.

On the official ballot, safety, security, and maintenance costs make up $917,000 of the levy with roofing totaling $425,000, HVAC/boiler issues totaling $275,000, plumbing $100,000, and purchased services and supplies adding another $117.

A school resource officer also is on the levy, adding $72,045.

Extracurricular, co-curricular, and athletics also would be covered by a levy if approved by voters, adding up to $376,500.

Transportation system, new buses and supplies total $258,540 of the proposed supplemental levy; while child nutrition would add $100,000.

Curricular materials add $86,500 to the proposed levy; technology adds $40,006; and health and liability insurance increases add $112,000.

Also on the levy ballot are salaries and benefits to recruit and retain support staff, totaling $1,423,382; and salaries and benefits to recruit and retain instructional, pupil services, and administration, making up $1,262,244 of the levy.

The proposed supplemental one-year levy — set at $4,648,217 — would cost taxpayers $94.43 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value.

While the language was formally adopted at its March 18 meeting, the board voted 4-1 on March 12 to put a supplemental levy before voters at the upcoming primary election May 21.

Before the board adopted the levy's formal ballot language, parent Kylie Hoepfer thanked the board for voting to put a supplemental levy before voters.

"Thank you for seeing that our children deserve to have safe buses, buildings that aren't falling apart, and smaller class sizes," Hoepfer said. "I want to mention that our children are the future of this town. They are little kids now, but they're going to be your future health care workers, business owners, they aren't just test scores."

Telling the board her daughter's fourth-grade class has 25 kids, including some naughty kids," Hoepfer asked how much larger would class sizes be if a levy doesn't run, or doesn't pass, how many more naughty kids would be created due to the larger class sizes.

"As a community, I think we need to come together for these children because, again, they are our future," she added.

Without a levy, the district will fail, resident Sandy Brower told the board. Access to funding that carried the district through this year won't be available next year and will devastate West Bonner.

"Since we have talked about unity, I would ask that we do come together and ralize that our students deserve more, not less," said Brower, who serves on the Priest River City Council. "They are our future. Let's come together as a community and support our teachers, support our staff, and support our students."

Those against putting a levy on the ballot have said it is premature and that deciding to run a levy before the results of both the district’s annual and forensic audits are completed is premature.

The district was advised by Eide Bailey, which is conducting West Bonner's forensic audit, that the firm found no "financial improprieties" in the audit's second phase. 

However, levy critics pointed to low student numbers and the need to be fiscally responsible as reasons to not run a levy at this time.