Writings and observations

idaho RANDY
The Idaho

Idaho voters hate taxes so much they re-elect, and re-re-elect, legislators who (mostly) reflexively slap down anything with a sniff of tax about it.

Here is what Idaho voters did on Tuesday: Approved, often by overwhelming margins, local tax increases or renewals. In the Vallivue School District (Canyon County) 75 percent voted in favor; in Lewiston’s school district 86 were in favor; in the Moscow School District, 70%. There were affirmative passing votes in the bulk of money-raising ballot issues around Idaho. They passed last week in Arbon, Cottonwood, Fremont County, Fruitland, Hagerman, Hansen, Kimberly,
Mountain View, Nezperce, Orofino, Parma, Rockland, St. Maries, Salmon River, Troy and Whitepine. That’s a lot of tax approval going on for a state like Idaho.

There were rejections too, but considerably fewer of them, and often by narrow margins: Emmett, Homedale, Jefferson County, Kellogg, Plummer-Worley, Salmon. (There list of voting results here likely is incomplete, but it’s what was available shortly after the election.)

Conditions differ, of course; the needs in the various districts were scattered. But the pattern seems reasonably clear, especially when you consider the non-school tax measures. A new jail okayed at Jerome. Library district levies passed in Burley and Richfield, a cemetery district levy in Hagerman.

Idaho voters are no wild spenders, but – faced with specific situations – they do seem willing to consider needs and raise money to deal with them. Their attitude seems at odds with that of many of their legislators.

The counter attitude shows up in the case of the vote at the Salmon School District.

The headline on the web page about the Salmon School District’s proposed bond levy (the district’s page) seems ironic in the face of the actual election on Tuesday: “Information about the may 21, 2013 Bond Election … And Why It Is Different than the Past Elections.” Those past elections are eight previous in the last decade or so, all rejecting proposed levies.

The district asked permission to levy about $14.6 million for a new elementary school building and $3.6 million for repairs to a middle school (75 years old) and elementary school (55 years old). The repairs do not sound frivolous. The district said that late last year “State building inspectors came to Salmon and inspected the Pioneer Elementary and Middle Schools and found that structurally they are at risk of imminent failure if we were to have a seismic event and/or heavy snowload. The result of their inspection is they accepted our application and determined that the remedy is to provide increased structural integrity at the two schools and replace portions of the roofs.” The foundations and walls were found to be crumbling, and could collapse if anything resembling a significant earthquake – like the one some years back centered near Challis, an hour away – happens again.

Actually, failure of the levy might not result in that since, the district said, “If neither option wins by a super majority (66.6%) your taxes will increase because the State will impose the Structural Fix to the community. This will be the $3.6 million bond for a 5 year term.”

Whatever conclusions might be drawn from that, the Idaho Legislature may be drawing them as well.

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Idaho Idaho column