Bitterroot Schools Pounded With Worst Voter Rejection in Years
It may not be the worst night ever for education in the Bitterroot Valley. But Tuesday's election results sent a clear message that voters, already swimming upstream against inflationary pressures, are in no mood to find more money for schools.
When the unofficial results were tallied after the May 2nd Special District Elections, every single levy request and bond issue from Florence all the way south to Darby was kicked to the curb. And not just by small margins, but with many of the proposals failing to even break 40%.
It was a huge setback in particular for the Hamilton School District, where administrators and supporters took a big roll of the dice, asking for $69 million dollars to replace the more-than-century-old Hamilton Middle School. The package, which totaled $71 million including high school upgrades, didn't even make it off the launch pad, with nearly 64% of the voters rejecting the idea.
A companion school levy for operations of Hamilton Schools had less than 34% support.
That means Hamilton School leaders will have to wait longer on a plan that's already been in limbo for years.
Even routine levies cratered
In Corvallis, school administrators had hoped to turn the expiration of a special levy to buy the old Ravalli County Electric site into a new permanent levy for ongoing operations. The hope was to be able to provide a more stable source of funding, and especially to help teachers and staff with competitive salaries. But more than 60% of the voters rejected the request, unusual in Corvallis where the schools have traditionally benefited from on-going support.
But the worst drubbing came in Florence, where nearly 72% of the voters turned down a levy request.
While the economy was a major factor in the failed proposals, voter turnout was also a huge obstacle. The Ravalli County Elections department shows voters turnout across the entire valley failed to top 40%.