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For the week of Feb. 16 through Feb. 22, 2000

Volunteers gear up for school facilities election

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District’s $37.7 million facilities improvement plan was scheduled to move into its next phase last night with a meeting of volunteers whose goal was to brainstorm an election strategy.

With the district’s ballot initiative slated for a countywide vote in about a dozen weeks, Superintendent Jim Lewis says the plan’s levy election team has its work cut out.

"This is going to be a big job and we need representation from all communities for this project for a successful outcome in May," he said in a Feb. 10 letter to volunteers.

The school district board of trustees unanimously approved the facilities plan and the election earlier this month.

If approved by voters, the plan will bring much-needed improvements, including a new $19 million high school, to district infrastructure throughout the county, officials say.

The district says those improvements are needed because of a burgeoning population in the county.

Financial experts in the district hope to pay for the plan with a $4 million per year plant facilities tax levy assessed for 10 years.

In a telephone interview last week, Lewis said the election was scheduled for May because of a state law that requires schools to begin assessing tax levies in the month of September. Placing the issue on November’s general election ballot, Lewis said, would cause a year’s delay in the plans.

So far, Lewis said, the plans have generated "a lot of excitement," especially with senior citizens, who could benefit from a wider variety of classes offered by an expanded College of Southern Idaho extension.

However, Lewis said, to achieve the 55 percent voter approval needed to pass the levy, many more people need to be reached before May’s election.

Therefore, the levy election team will likely consider the options of conducting door-to-door campaigning, mailing reminder cards, distributing flyers and creating ads in newspapers, radio and television, Lewis said.

The district might also televise a presentation Lewis has been giving at public meetings during the past several weeks.

"Our most important job is to provide an opportunity for anyone who’s interested to see the entire plan," Lewis said.

Meanwhile, district board clerk Cathy Zacardie will be responsible for the nuts and bolts of the election.

Early in March, she said during an interview at her Hailey office, she intends to ask the district to determine an exact date, time and place for the election.

And, she said, she’ll ask the district for permission to hire an election board, to draft a ballot and to start publishing and posting election notices.

The district’s previous building effort—a $16 million levy that resulted in the new Wood River Middle School and other smaller projects—passed by 78 percent in 1993.


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