After gathering feedback in Hailey, Ketchum and Carey, the Blaine County school board is zeroing in on its plan to ask voters for a plant facilities levy sometime next year. First, though, it wants to hear more—particularly from people who aren’t affiliated with the schools.
The board, trustees-elect and members of the district’s ad-hoc Finance Committee met for a work session Wednesday night to refine the 10-year, $40 million plan to pay for future construction, maintenance, technology and safety systems.
So far, the district has collected public comments through three listening sessions and an online form. That input produced two pages of concerns for the trustees to comb through before finalizing the plan. Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes expects the district to post answers on those questions online by the time students return from winter break.
About half the money would be immediately spoken for. State law requires school districts to set aside 2 percent of the replacement value of its buildings for annual maintenance, between $1.2 million and $1.3 million each year in the Blaine County School District, according to district Finance Manager Bryan Fletcher. And, the district has between $900,000 and $1 million in annual technology contracts, Fletcher said.
The discretionary projects, though, are all on the table. (To learn more about what’s included, type //bit.ly/2r9fIjV into your web browser.)
“We’re not putting it forward as a set of stone tablets handed down from heaven. We’re saying, ‘This is what we considered,’” Finance Committee member Len Harlig said Wednesday. “There were only 11 of us, and not every vote was unanimous. … There’s room for argument.”
The Finance Committee recommended putting the question on the ballot in either May or August 2020. Any later, and the district will have to carve out money from other funds to fill gaps in its fiscal 2021 budget, according to Fletcher. Both dates are coming fast, Harlig said—and the advocates of the plan have “an awful lot of educating to do” before the vote.
If early feedback is any indication, much of it will involve tamping down a regional rivalry between Hailey Elementary and the Ernest Hemingway STEAM School in Ketchum.
“There’s this mentality of the haves and the have-nots,” Trustee Kelly Green said. “We as a board need to come together and create a sense of community. It’s like my parents used to tell my sisters and me--‘When you guys keep score, nobody wins.’”