PAYETTE - As the discussion of whether – and when – to ask voters for additional money to update Payette School District facilities continues, a new monkey wrench has been thrown in the Board of Trustees’ gears: Idaho House Bill 347.

Under the proposed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, the ability to run bond measures for school improvement money or other taxing district purposes would come with an 11-month waiting period after a failure. This would even stick with altered proposals and lowered amount requests, and measures could only be run in May or November.

This new possibility was brought up during the board’s meeting on Feb. 10.

Chairman Adam Rynearson said the possibility of going for a bond again is a discussion that needs to stay open. 

“We want to keep having the discussion, whether we push it on down the road or we decide to take it up again,” he said.

Board Clerk Barbara Choate reminded the board that the eaves of the Payette High School roof need to be done before the new school year. She said the lowest quoted option of less than $60,000 was still available to consider and she urged the board to not neglect needs just because a bond is possible.

“As you look at a bond for building a new high school and you consider facilities needs, you need to keep [current] expenses in mind as you move forward,” Choate said. 

Trustee Ethan Mittlestadt noted that when the ballot runs would affect how voters respond to it.

“For example, this year being a presidential election, it’s going to be a bigger turnout for that,” Mittlestadt said. “If citizens don’t do their homework and they see that spot on the ballot box, then they may make an uninformed vote one way or the another.”

The Idaho State Constitution requires school bond measures to pass with a two-thirds (66.67%) vote. Trustee Andy Kirkendall noted that to lower the threshold for passage would require a constitutional amendment.

Rynearson mentioned that there was difficulty last March in getting correct information to voters. He also noted that November elections come with “A lot of noise.”

“Being just [a local school district] and not having any funds … it’s hard getting information out,” he said.

Superintendent Robin Gilbert urged those present to call their legislators regarding the House Bill.

“They’re also putting levies on there,” said Gilbert. “If you were to run a levy, for budgeting purposes it would be very difficult to have only a November or May ballot.”

Mittlestadt also noted that on Feb. 17 there is an Idaho School Boards Association Day on the Hill, in which trustees of Idaho school districts can talk to legislators face-to-face.

According to Choate, November ballot language would be due in September, whereas language for the May ballot would be due in March.

No action was taken during this meeting.

House Bill 347 passed the House 48-21-1 on Jan. 30, and has been referred to State Affairs in the Senate as of press time.

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