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Idaho school district wastes taxpayer cash with extra election

Idaho school district wastes taxpayer cash with extra election

Dustin Hurst
July 8, 2015
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July 8, 2015
Middleton will hold a special election in August, which will cost taxpayers at least $5,000.
Middleton will hold a special election in August, which will cost taxpayers at least $5,000.

One Idaho school district will ask taxpayers in August to continue a tax override that funds some operations, an election that could have been entirely avoided.

Middleton School District, which served nearly 3,800 students in the 2014-2015 school year, will ask area voters for $2.6 million spread over two years to pay for programs, some staff and busing.

While coming before voters to ask for more cash to continue programs, the district will waste a significant amount of taxpayer money.

In February, Middleton Superintendent Richard Bauscher told the Middleton Rural Fire District the school levy could wait if the fire board decided to ask voters for its supplemental levy on May 19. Fire officials opted for the May election, pushing out the district’s levy request.

When voters head to the polls to decide school funding August 25, Middleton’s election will be the only thing on the ballot in the entire county, Canyon County spokesman Joe Decker confirmed this week.

Taxing districts had until the close of business Monday to ask Canyon County to put an issue on the ballot. Decker said only Middleton opted for that.

Had Bauscher and the school district opted for the May election, taxpayers could have saved thousands of dollars.

Idaho law gives most taxing districts only two dates to ask voters to decide funding levels and elect candidates to office. An election consolidation reform bill lawmakers approved in 2009 gives school districts like Middleton two extra dates to go before voters, though they can only ask about money issues on those two dates.

Bauscher told IdahoReporter.com he decided to wait until August to prevent confusion among voters.

“We have read articles that suggest when multiple levies and issues are run at the same time in the same precincts that the voters could become somewhat confused to the nuances of each other,” Bauscher wrote in an email. “Therefore it is best to let one each stand on their own so that the voters have less financial issues to approve or to deny.”

The school district held candidate election for two trustees slots this May.

Middleton taxpayers won’t foot the whole bill for this -- in fact, district residents will likely pay pennies for the extra election. Instead, state taxpayers will pick up the tab.

“The state covers all of the costs of these 4 elections for school districts across the state,” he wrote. “So it does not matter which of the 4 dates we select, it does not cost us anything to administer these elections.”

Decker said the special election will cost at least $5,000 to cover printing, poll workers, deliveries and poll place rental space. That figure doesn't include staffing costs for election night vote tabulation.

Canyon County will administer voting for seven precincts at six locations.

The school district’s budget jumped from $16.43 million in the 2012-2013 school year to more than $19 million for the 2014-2015 school year.

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