Saturday, September 23, 2023

School levy headed for a ballot in Cd’A

Staff Writer | June 21, 2022 1:07 AM

The Coeur d'Alene School District will go ahead with holding a school plant facilities levy election Aug. 30.

During a special meeting Monday, school board members unanimously voted in favor of asking the community for $8 million a year for 10 years. Trustee Allie Anderton made the motion, which was seconded by Trustee Heather Tenbrink.

If approved by voters, this would have an estimated annual average cost to the taxpayer of $50.03 per $100,000 of taxable assessed property value, per year, based on current conditions.

"As compared to some other states, we have very, very little funding coming for building maintenance from the state of Idaho," Tenbrink said.

The school plant facilities levy will be used to address $25 million in deferred maintenance projects and repairs in buildings across the district, from heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems units and dilapidated roofs to worn-out flooring and cracked, pothole-riddled asphalt.

Funding from this levy would also address security and safety measures, which have become of utmost importance in light of recent school shootings. The district already has $5 million in security updates it needs to address sooner than later, Superintendent Shon Hocker told The Press last week.

Thrace Kelsick, whose daughter is a Ramsey Magnet School of Science student, was the first to offer public comment during the special meeting. He spoke in support of the levy. He said the district as a whole is drastically underfunded.

"After watching last week's meeting, I was quite shocked and disturbed to realize just how underfunded not just maintenance, but security in general is," Kelsick said. "It also reinforced my concerns about the bodily safety of our kids and teachers. I don't see anything more pressing or important than that. Honestly, it shouldn't be a question of dollars. We should do everything we can to fully fund as many safety and security measures as we can as soon as possible."

He said taller fences, window film and camera upgrades are just a bare minimum when it comes to school safety. He said he would like to see an expansion of the school resource officer program that permits at least one officer at every school all day, every school day.

Kelsick said he and his daughter will attend an open house for a virtual academy not because they want to, but because they're faced with a grim reality.

"When I drop my kid off at school, I may never see them again," he said. "That's highly disturbing to me."

Bill Green asked during his public comment time if the district could cut administration costs and transfer those savings to maintenance or to teachers.

"That would be a great indication to voters who might be really interested in looking more closely in the levy if you were showing that you are, like everybody else, having to cut somewhere because of inflation and all of the problem with economics that's going on," he said, adding that it would be inspiring to some voters to see the district wants to recognize this universal problem and cut costs anywhere they could.

Another Ramsey parent, Ericka Schindelbeck, said she and her family are scared to send their children back to school and are having a difficult time relaxing this summer knowing what kids may face in the upcoming school year.

"You can either feel like a sitting duck or get the right equipment and feel safe," Schindelbeck said.

She said metal detectors, gun detection cameras, security signs and a heavier police car and resource officer presence could all be used to increase security. She said her children's resource officer is amazing, but even after spending time at or driving past the school, she's only seen him twice.

"I know he's spread really thin," Schindelbeck said. "If we could work on that, that would be amazing."

She said she is willing to do whatever it takes — supporting the levy or campaigning for private funds.

"The schools are in a state of emergency this year," Schindelbeck said. "I understand the pandemic has exhausted our system, but I would like you guys to know that I am, along with the other parents, willing to help. Please don't be afraid to ask for parent help this year, because I think you can get a lot."

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