Lakeland, Kootenai approve proposals

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Voters in the Lakeland and Kootenai school districts on Tuesday night approved measures that fund facility improvements.

Lakeland voters approved a plant facility levy of $800,000 per year for five years that will fund building repairs, energy efficiency improvements, equipment, buses and classroom furniture.

The voting included 1,174 for the proposal - for 60.52 percent approval - and 766 against the levy. Fifty-five percent approval was needed for the levy to pass.

Kootenai voters passed a $2 million bond levy for a wastewater treatment project.

Those in favor of the bond were 251 (76.06 percent) and 79 were against. A vote of 66 and two-thirds percent approval was needed for the bond to pass.

Lakeland voters in March turned down a plant facility levy of $905,000 per year for 10 years. The proposal obtained 53 percent approval. While at the polls, voters approved a supplemental levy by about the same margin.

Tom Taggart, Lakeland's finance director, said he believes that having one question on the ballot made a difference with voters.

"We felt that having this on the ballot by itself allowed us to focus on this and explain it better," Taggart said. "We were able to answer some questions better."

Taggart said the district would have had to dip into the General Fund if the levy hadn't passed.

"This is a big relief," he said. "This will allow us to go into the year feeling pretty good and plan."

Even with the levy, the overall amount of property tax levied by Lakeland will decrease 11 percent next year due to other levies being reduced or eliminated.

If the measure had failed, taxes on a $175,000 home after the homeowner's exemption would have been reduced an additional $37 per year.

With the Kootenai measure, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality mandated that the district make system improvements because the current lagoon lacks a liner to prevent seepage.

With the bond, the district will buy land for a new lagoon and meet land application requirements for treated effluent.

"We would like to thank our community for their strong support in the bond levy election and their willingness to maintain the financial support of the school, especially in these difficult economic times," Kootenai Superintendent Lynette Ferguson said. "Passage of this bond allows the district to fulfill the requirements of the Department of Environmental Quality wastewater compliance agreement enabling the districts continued operation."

In the spring of 2008 and 2011, the lagoon was overtopping and had to be pumped to prevent overspill.

Even with the levy, taxes in the district will slightly decrease due to the Kootenai High School bond that is expiring this year.

To pay for the bond, the owner of a $100,000 home, less the homeowners exemption, will pay about $22.50 per year for 10 years. The owner of a $200,000 home will pay an estimated $52.21 per year.

The lagoon the district currently uses was constructed in 1977. The storage capacity is undersized for the permitted facility and the chlorine system does not consistently meet disinfection requirements, according to the district.

Neither of the school district measures can be used for salaries or operating expenses.

Idaho is one of the few states that does give funding support for building schools and renovations. School districts are expected to finance such projects with general obligation bonds or plant facility levies authorized by local voters.

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