Friday, January 1, 2010

School district anxious to spend levy funds

2009 brings 2 new faces to school board

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School district is ready to get going on construction projects approved by the voters in October.

Approval was in the form of a $59.8 million plant facilities levy, which allows the district to collect $5.98 million per year for the next 10 years from property tax assessments. Only 55 percent voter approval was required for passage. The levy received a 59 percent positive vote.

The school district proposed the levy to fund new technology, safety and security upgrades, building repairs, alternative energy development, resource conservation measures, new classrooms and a new elementary school if needed.

Though tax collections can't start until July 2010, when the school district starts its fiscal year, district officials hope to borrow on the money starting this spring to meet matching funds for a federal grant to develop geothermal resources for heating many schools.

To borrow on the money, which is done through issuance of "certificates of participation" to investors, the district needs court approval through a judicial confirmation process. But that can't even legally start until the district holds a public hearing to get the pulse of the community on the idea. That public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the district office in Hailey.

So far, the district board of trustees has only approved holding the public hearing. A vote on whether to proceed with judicial confirmation will be held after the hearing.

In 2009, the district also said good-bye to Superintendent Jim Lewis, who retired after heading the district for 10 years. Lewis was replaced by Lonnie Barber, who served as assistant superintendent for two years before taking over for Lewis.

The last year also saw the election of two new school board members, as Paul Bates defeated incumbent Alexandra Sundali in the Ketchum-area zone and Steve Guthrie won the south Hailey zone against incumbent Kim Nilsen.

Bates and Guthrie represented themselves prior to the election as "candidates for change."

Terry Smith:

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