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For the week of May 3 through May 9, 2000

School improvement plan to voters

Susan Winget signs the electors oathKetchum resident Susan Winget signs the electors’ oath before voting on the school levy Tuesday at Hemingway Elementary School. At 3 p.m., election coordinator Cathy Zacardi said record numbers of people were turning out for the election. “I don’t know what it means,” she said, “but people are out there voting.” Express photo by Willy Cook

Express Staff Writer

Last night was the moment of truth for the Blaine County School District’s plan to levy a $4 million-per year tax to finance extensive school facilities improvements.

Fifty-five percent voter approval is needed to put the levy over the top.

Polls were open yesterday at four elementary school locations in the county for voters to cast their ballots on the 10-year plan aimed at helping schools keep pace with a burgeoning student body population.

Growing at a rate of 3.1 percent annually, district officials say schools will be bursting at the seems in the next several years without expanded facilities.

At stake for the district last night was the funding for projects to be completed over the next decade: a new $19.6 million high school; a new $8.1 million elementary school; a $5 million Carey School renovation; a $2.7 million Wood River Middle School expansion; a new $1 million bus barn; and several smaller projects.

Planners hope to turn the existing Wood River High School into a multi-use facility shared by the Blaine County Recreation District, the school district and the College of Southern Idaho.

Blaine County’s high property values allow the district to fund the projects with a "pay as you go" plant facilities levy, which would save taxpayers $28 million in interest compared to financing with a school bond, officials say.

Opponents of the levy say that the district can finance the $40 million worth of improvements from its current budget and does not need the extra, on average, $64.75 per year for every $100,000 of taxable assessed value the levy provides.

The district, however, says that funding the improvements through the current budget would require cutting back existing educational programs and cutting back on the number of teachers in the district, which would raise the ever-important student-teacher ratios.

District clerk Cathy Zacardi said in a telephone conversation Monday that holding the election in May allows the district to begin collecting money as early as September.

First up on the district’s list of projects is building the new high school and bus barn, Zacardi said; however, she didn’t know exactly when those projects would begin.


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