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Idaho House committee votes for more infrequent school elections

Courtesy Boundary County
March and August school elections could become a thing of the past in Idaho.

The proposed bill would limit school levies and bond issues to primary and general elections.

An Idaho House committee has voted to take away two yearly opportunities for school districts to ask their patrons for money.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Alfieri (R-Coeur d'Alene) would remove the options for March and August school-related elections. That would leave the primary election in May and the general election in November as their two choices.

“Primary and general elections get greater voter turnout, thus a much larger number of people who will be affected by levies and bonds will have the opportunity to voice their opinions through the ballot box," he said. "The March and August elections cost taxpayers a lot of money that can be saved by running just two elections per year.”

Supporters of the reduced ballots plan say that will force districts to communicate better with their patrons.

“We must engage them in the best manner possible and the best manner of engaging people is when they turn out for election most often. And the elections that bring the greatest number of people out are the May primary and the November election," Alfieri said.

School interests, including Teresa Rae, a board member for the Boundary County School District, argued most districts prefer the March and August dates.

“Sixty percent of us run our levies in March. One, because when the election is totally focused on the school district, our engagement and success rate is the highest and, two, specifically for levies, the timing is the best," she said.

"For schools, we conduct negotiations in March and April, issue contracts late April, and receive signed contracts by the end of May. This locks in our certificated staff and lets us go out for hire by June. We can prepare a balanced budget and recruit and retain quality staff," Rae said.

Moving elections to May, she says, would push back the schedule enough to make the summer preparations for the next fall difficult.

That wasn’t a persuasive argument, as 11 of the 13 committee members voted to reduce the number of school election dates.

The bill now moves to the full House.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.