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Wilder voters will have a say in the May 19 election whether the city should license the sale of liquor by the drink.

Currently, the city of about 1,800 residents west of Caldwell only permits 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. 

This is the second time in recent years that Wilder is asking voters about permitting the sale of liquor by the drink, said Mayor Steve Rhodes, noting that the measure failed in 2005 by just six votes. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.

Frank Castellanos, who owns Hop House, a bar and restaurant in Wilder, has been working with the city to get the question on the ballot. The push from Castellanos follows some miscommunication between two local bars and the city. 

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. 

Castellanos, whose bar has been open in Wilder for two years, found out that the city did not have the ability to issue the license in the first place. He said he has been working with city officials to put the question before voters. He said the city has allowed him to keep selling liquor with the license until the vote happens on May 19. 

"We have built a customer base here," Castellanos said, "And the good thing about this is we were able to get the signatures. (The city) was nice enough to let us put it back on the ballot."

Castellanos said the liquor license question has a lot of support from his customers, but the problem is the bar's customers mostly come from out of town, including from Nampa and Boise. Despite this, he does believe there is support from some local residents.

"I am hoping that now being open two years, that people can see we run a clean establishment," he said. "Hopefully it will change people's minds."

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

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

The levy needs a simple majority to pass. In March, 56% of voters voted against the levy. 

The district's website outlines possible responses if the levy fails, including:

  • Freeze pay.
  • Reduce staff through attrition.
  • Explore outsourcing some services.
  • Consider a four-day school week.
  • Eliminate transportation services that are not reimbursed.
  • Move to a “pay-to-play” system where students would help pay for extracurricular activities, since those programs are not supported with state funds.
  • Delay science curriculum adoption, opting only for a pilot program, even though the state has adopted new science standards.

Superintendent Sherawn Reberry said after outlining the potential budget cuts for the coming year, "the community is talking about the levy election more." 

Reberry also said there is apprehension among district employees about the levy.

"Absentee balloting compounds that concern, especially with the extended window for requesting and returning ballots," she said.

The state is holding an all-absentee ballot election for the May 19 primary because of the coronavirus pandemic. Voters must request an absentee ballot by May 19, but will have until June 2 to return their ballot the county elections office.

The estimated average annual cost to the taxpayer on the Middleton levy is $94 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value per year, based on current conditions.

If passed, the new levy would replace the district's existing $1.3 million levy, which costs $82 per $100,000 of assessed value per year. The district also has a bond levy that costs $309 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value that is expected to decline to $292, which would allow the overall levy to drop by $5 per $100,000 even if the supplemental levy is renewed.

The current levy is used for curriculum, technology, and K-12 programs that prepare students for careers and college, according to the district website. The $1.5 million levy would allow the district afford building repairs.

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

KUNA FIRE LEVY

A special tax levy is on the ballot for Ada and Canyon County voters who live in the Kuna Rural Fire District. The levy would bring in an additional $1.2 million to the district per year for two years, in addition to its current budget of roughly $3 million.

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

The district is proposing to add three to six new full-time firefighter/paramedics in order 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

The two-year increase needs a simple majority to pass, 50% plus one vote. 

WEST ADA SUPPLEMENTAL LEVY

The West Ada School District will ask voters within its boundaries on May 19 to renew a two-year, $14 million per year supplemental levy.

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

A supplemental levy can be used for any expenditure that is allowable under Idaho Code. Most school districts in Idaho use supplemental levy revenue for operational costs, such as salaries and benefits. For West Ada, salaries and benefits account for 85% of the district's general fund. The supplemental levy accounts for 5% of the district's general fund.

The estimated average annual cost to the taxpayer on the proposed levy is $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.

To pass, the levy requires 50% plus one vote approval from voters.

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.