Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard
BOISE (IdahoEdNews.org) — Voting along party lines, the House State Affairs Committee endorsed a bill to crack down on “repeat” bond issues.
Several school administrators testified against House Bill 347, which now goes to the floor for a vote, perhaps later this week.
HB 347 would require school districts and other taxing entities to wait at least 11 months to re-run a bond issue that voters rejected.
“It protects voters from aggressive taxing districts,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard. “People know what they can afford. … These votes are being ignored.”
At least in theory, school districts could try the same bond issue on four designated election dates: in March, May, August and November. And in 2019, the Minidoka County, Filer and Kellogg districts ran multiple bond issues, failing to get voter approval.
These repeat bond issues are uncommon, said Idaho School Boards Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria. And in many cases, districts that run a second bond issue receive majority support the first time — sometimes narrowly missing the two-thirds supermajority threshold needed to pass a bond issue.
“We believe this legislation is a solution in search of a problem,” Echeverria said.
Two Treasure Valley superintendents argued for flexibility in running bond issues.
Craig Woods, now the superintendent of the Emmett School District, related his experience at the Notus School District, and his attempts to replace an aging elementary school. A May 2014 bond issue failed. The district ran a new bond issue in November 2014, proposing to move the site of the new school, but this also failed. The bond issue finally passed in May 2015, after the district honored patrons’ request to tear down the old school.
“We listened to them as a board,” Woods said.
In Vallivue, a $65.3 million bond issue passed in March 2019 by only two votes. If the fast-growing district had been forced to wait a year to rerun the bond issue, the cost of the building projects would have only increased, Superintendent Pat Charlton said.
A plethora of bond issues places a confusing burden on taxpayers, said Fred Birnbaum of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which supports Scott’s bill.
“It’s just not the way an electoral system ought to operate,” Birnbaum said.
The House passed a similar bill in 2018, but it stalled in the Senate.
This article was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on January 27, 2020.