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ID School Levies: Lower Winning Margins, Larger Turnout

Courtesy of Coeur d'Alene School District

There are a few similarities when you review school levy results from Spokane and Kootenai counties during the last two months. While most of the levies were approved, the winning margins have been smaller than in past years.

We talked with representatives of two north Idaho districts that had successful measures on Tuesday.On Wednesday, Coeur d’Alene School District spokesman Scott Maben reflected back on how Tuesday’s levy results, nearly 60% support, compared with past levies.

“Two years ago we were just under 70% support. Four years ago we had both a levy and a big bond measure for school construction on the ballot. The levy, back then, I think, was closer to 79%," he said.

Maben says one factor may be a huge increase in turnout: 9,700 ballots cast this time around, compared with 6,100 two years ago.

“I do wonder if more voters are attuned to school district operations because of the pandemic and the various ways that school districts have responded with various health measures. But I also think the state of the economy may explain some of the upswing in turnout. Many people still aren’t fully back to work. Some businesses continue to struggle," he said.

In the nearby Lakeland School District, Tuesday’s levy passed, but it was a squeaker, 50.5%, a much smaller margin of victory than in past years, says Superintendent Becky Meyer.

“The reason that the percentage of yes votes is down is we have new people and a real organized coalition that is, whether it’s anti-tax, we just want to vote no and have lower property taxes and they aren’t really researching the specifics about our school district," she said.

Like in Coeur d’Alene, Meyer says Lakeland’s turnout was much higher Tuesday. She says that was by design.

“Our number one goal was to increase voter turnout and make sure that people had as much factual information as possible. So we sent out mailers that we hadn’t done in the past. We did things in the paper. We had a website. I sent out one, two, three, four ‘Keeping you informed’ updates," she said.

And while they engaged voters, they also drove down the victory margin. But she can now breathe a sigh of relief. It’s two years to the next levy, right?

“Yeah, well, this is Idaho so we actually have a plant facilities levy next year," Meyer said.

And there are other big projects behind that, so voters can expect to receive many more “Keeping you informed” updates in the future.