SANDPOINT — Voters passed the Lake Pend Oreille School District levy Tuesday with a vote of 2,626 yays against 1,876 nays.
The $7.8 million-per-year levy’s success is a huge moment of relief for school district officials, who were counting on the local support to avoid far deeper slashes into staff and services. The levy will keep a number of departments in the district budget afloat, including a third of staff, all academic and extracurricular activities and all technology upgrades and tech staff.
“We’re definitely really excited about the levy’s success,” LPOSD Superintendent Shawn Woodward said. “In a way, it’s a vote of confidence from the community, and it’s not something we’re going to take lightly.”
However, the vote was narrower than in 2011, when voters passed the levy with a vote of 3,577 to 2,163. In addition, the turn-out was significantly lower.
Just over half of the 23 voting precincts passed the levy with a majority of affirmative votes. Careywood, Cocolalla, Colburn, Grouse Creek, Kelso, Oden, Selle, Southside, Westmond and Wrenco, on the other hand, all voted with a majority in opposition.
As they prepared for the levy vote, district officials were hoping that high student performance compared to other Idaho districts and the lowest tax rate in North Idaho — 53 percent below state average — would be enough to convince voters the additional expense was worthwhile. Currently, voters pay about $15 per month per $200,000 of assessed property value with a homeowner’s exemption. The new levy will increase that figure by $3.68 per month.
The levy came to the forefront of public discussion at the beginning of the year after the school board decided to pursue a figure of $7,883,742 per year over a two-year period. The figure is an increase of $1 million over the existing levy. Opponents of the levy saw this figure as an inappropriate expansion of local financial support, while advocates argued that even with the levy approval, the district still faced significant cutbacks.