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Voters cast the final ballots Tuesday to decide the fate of four local initiatives that range from lifting liquor restrictions to maintaining current education funding. Now, the results are in.

Wilder Loosens Liquor Regulations

Fifteen years after upholding a ban on sale of liquor by the drink, Wilder voters pivoted their stance, OKing expanded alcohol sales in the town.

The measure, which needed a simple majority to pass, gained support of 63.1% of the 103 voters who turned out. 

Leading up to the vote, the city of about 1,800 residents west of Caldwell only permitted the sale of beer and wine. Idaho Code gives cities the ability to determine if liquor can be sold by the drink within city limits.

A nearly identical 2005 measure failed by only six votes. 

The attempt to unlock commercial liquor cabinets was driven by Frank Castellanos, who owns Wilder restaurant and bar Hop House. Castellanos said in 2005, after the liquor vote failed, a different bar in town was able to obtain a license to sell liquor by the drink because of miscommunication between individuals and the city. That bar later gave its liquor license to Castellanos for Hop House, and the city agreed to allow him to continue selling liquor until the vote went through.

Wilder Mayor Steve Rhodes said the city has been trying to work with Hop House. He said the license confusion is "no fault by the Hop House, the city issued the license without being able to sell it."

State code allows every city to have at least two liquor licenses, with one additional license for every 1,500 people.

Wilder's neighboring city of Greenleaf bans all alcohol sales. When the ban was challenged by a business owner in 2014, the city council voted to keep it in place.

A year later, voters in Melba, another small city in Canyon County, voted in favor of allowing liquor sales by the drink.

Middleton school levy fails narrowly

The Middleton School District, for the second time this year, failed to get voter approval to run a supplemental levy of $1.5 million each year for the next two years.

The results came hours after the school board announced that district Superintendent Sherawn Reberry, still in her first year on the job, has resigned, effective immediately. The school board will meet Wednesday to discuss it. 

The levy needed a simple majority to pass, but failed narrowly, with 51.6% of 4,578 ballots cast against the levy increase. The measure failed by 150 votes.

In March, 56% of voters were against the levy. 

Ahead of the election, the district predicted it may need to freeze pay, reduce staff through attrition, charge students for extracurricular activities and take other measures to close the funding gap. The district's two-year, $1.3 million-per-year supplemental levy is expiring. 

The district has also tried to pass a bond measure to build a new elementary school in recent years, which has failed three times.

Earlier this year, the school board voted to move to a four-day school week, starting next fall. 

Ada and Canyon against Kuna fire levy

Ada and Canyon County voters living in the Kuna Rural Fire District rejected a special tax levy that would have brought in an additional $1.2 million to the district per year for two years, in addition to its current budget of roughly $3 million.

Because the proposed levy would have only triggered a temporary tax increase, the measure only needed a simple majority to pass. It received 41.8% of the vote, and only 29.6% of the vote from Canyon County residents living in the district, as of 10:18 p.m. Tuesday night. 

The cost to taxpayers would have been roughly $61 annually per $100,000 of taxable property value.

The district proposed the measure in order to add three to six new full-time firefighter/paramedics to increase the number of personnel on shift, expand the fire station and replace equipment and fire and ambulance apparatus, according to its website.

The district in 2018 and 2019 sought a permanent annual levy increase of $1.1 million. The permanent increase needed two-thirds majority, or about 67%, to pass, and narrowly failed with 65% support in 2018 and 62% support in 2019.

Fire Chief Phil Roberts hoped to save the money from the two-year increase to the budget for the next 10 years of growth, reported the Kuna Melba News. He also said the incremental growth of the budget would have helped prevent the district from having to bond for a new station in future years, causing a sharper uptick in property taxes.

The vote comes after a shakeup in the district’s board leadership earlier this year that included the addition of a board member who voiced opposition to a past fire district levy increase. 

The district is currently in the process of applying for federal grant funding to help cover the cost of hiring new staff, but Roberts called those grants “competitive,” and these grants would only cover 75% of new employees’ salaries for three years.

West Ada levy shot down after four consecutive renewals

The West Ada School District unsuccessfully asked voters within its boundaries to renew a two-year, $14 million per year supplemental levy.

The levy required a simple majority, or 50% of the vote plus one vote, to pass. It failed in both Canyon and Ada counties, with 54.5% of combined voters rejecting the measure as of 10:23 p.m. Tuesday night. 

The levy would have continued covering operational costs that support the district's current programs, school days and teacher-to-student ratios. The 2020 levy would have renewed a 2018 levy, which was approved by 68.8% of voters two years ago. West Ada successfully renewed the $14 million per year levy four times since 2012.

The estimated average annual cost to the taxpayer on the proposed levy was $52.60 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value, per year. Since West Ada currently collects a $14 million levy, which will expire when the proposed levy goes into effect, the 2020 levy will not change the current taxing rate for the district. West Ada's current levy rate is $351 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value, which is the lowest among comparable school districts in southwestern Idaho.

West Ada planned to also ask voters this month for a $69 million bond, to be used for new school facilities, but the West Ada board of trustees in March voted to cancel the bond measure due to the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.

Blake Jones is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and stop by during his office hours, Wed. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and Thu. 9 a.m.-12 p.m., at our Kuna newsroom, 326 Avenue D. Call ahead at 208-922-3008.

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