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Voters reject levy needed to continue 'basic educational programs' in the Plummer-Worley School District

Superintendent Russ Mitchell expects the district won't have enough money to hire the same number of teachers once current staff retire or leave.

PLUMMER, Idaho — A North Idaho school district has some difficult decisions to make.

Voters Tuesday rejected a levy needed to continue basic educational programs for students in the Plummer-Worley School District.

Superintendent Russ Mitchell paid close attention to election results during Tuesday's primary.

"Last night it was pretty disappointing," Mitchell said. "We wake up this morning and you go back to teaching and you do the things you can do."

The district put a supplemental levy on the ballot. A person living in a $300,000 home would have paid an extra $142 in property taxes, slightly less than the levy that was passed in 2019.

This year's levy was struck down with only 46% of voters in favor of it.

"I get a little defensive when it's about kids. This is not about salaries, this isn't about we're building some grandiose building, this is about kids learning to read, to write and then those things that matter to them like athletics," Mitchell said. "Some sports we may just not be able to have or you don't have JV teams."

Mitchell expects the district won't have enough money to hire the same number of teachers once current staff retire or leave for other opportunities. Mitchell said most staff travel at least 40 minutes to and from work.

"We just won't replace those positions and then we'll shift some people around, some people are not going to be in their area of expertise, that's for certain," Mitchell said. "We've had some teachers that have actually come to me and said 'I think I need to be looking for a job because I don't know how this is going to land and there's a lot of districts looking to hire so we've lost some to that."

Voters approved four separate levies between 2013 and 2019. The district didn't ask for one in 2021 because federal COVID dollars filled in a lot of gaps, and a lot of people were out of work.

"They elected not to; they are very sensitive to raising taxes," Mitchell said.

But now, those federal dollars are running thin. That's why the district asked for a new levy this year. It's why Mitchell is concerned about what's next. He wants the school board to ask the community once again to pass the levy this August.

"That's my job over the next period of time to work with the board and make sure we don't adversely affect the students as much as possible," Mitchell said.

We asked Mitchell why he thought this Levy didn't pass. He says one thing they have to consider is that there's a lot of people moving into the outskirts of town that don't have school kids and have no connection with the district.

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