Voters OK $13.6M school levy

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Despite freezing rain and temperatures in the mid-30s, 20 Sandpoint High School students walked along the Long Bridge after school on Tuesday, carrying signs in support of the levy vote. The track, golf, baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball teams were represented, as was the Honors Society. Many of the passersby honked their horns in a show of support. “Oh my gosh, 95 percent of the cars going by are thumbs up and positive,” said Geraldine Lewis, a parent and one of the organizers. “I like the kids being involved and advocating for their futures.” (Photo by ERIC PLUMMER)

SANDPOINT — After three months of discussion and debate, Bonner County residents passed the Lake Pend Oreille School District supplemental levy by a 3,577 to 2,163 vote.

A majority voted for the levy in all precincts except Careywood, Cocolalla, Edgemere, Gamlin Lake and Wrenco. Turnout totaled to 35 percent, with 5,740 out of 16,571 registered voters visiting the polls.   

The supplemental levy, which will collect a total of $13,646,624 over two years from property taxes, was finalized last December after several months of fine-tuning by LPOSD administrators and board members. During the planning process, district officials selected between a low, medium and high increase option. Ultimately, the board decided to propose a comparatively small levy increase and selectively cut staff and programs to weather through the anticipated minimum of $2 million in state holdbacks.   

The levy will add a small increase to the taxes of property owners in Bonner County. Assuming the holder has a homeowner’s exemption, that increase ranges from 76 cents on property valued at $100,000 to $6.51 on $450,000 properties. District officials place the average increase at $3.44 for owners of $250,000 properties.

Without the millions of dollars raised by a supplemental levy, the school district would be forced to cut one third of its staff and all of its extracurricular programs. In addition, some of the smaller, community-based schools may have been closed.

To limit that damage, LPOSD officials would have had to return to the drawing board and draft a new proposal had this initiative failed. After creating and presenting a new levy to the public, district officials would have held a second vote on May 22.  

However, Lake Pend Oreille School District officials are excited that, according to the majority of voters, they got it right the first time around.

“All of us here in the school district are grateful for the support of the community and the faith they’ve put in us,” LPOSD Superintendent Dick Cvitanich said.

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