It’s not new, but this time it is different.

Over a period that has spanned five decades St. Maries school patrons have voted on more than 40 supplemental levies. Next week, they will do it again.

But this election is unlike any in the past.

Oh sure, the basics are all the same. If approved, money from the levy will raise your property taxes. That revenue will augment – supplement if you prefer – funding provided by the state to balance the district’s $8.7 million budget. None of that has changed.

What separates this levy proposal from previous efforts is voters know exactly what the additional money will buy.

In the previous 40-some levy votes the common question was always “What will you use the money for?” The answer was always a bit murky. That is, the money is always used “for the operations of the district.”

While that answer may not be as precise as some patrons prefer, it is accurate. Money raised from the levy would be dumped into the same bucket with the state funding, then doled out from there to run the schools. You know the drill – pay teachers, heat buildings, run buses, fund athletics, pay for lights etc. etc. etc.

(Slight detour here: This is the time when we typically castigate legislators who ignore the state constitution by not funding schools. Instead of doing their jobs, they leave a monstrous budget gap that local taxpayers must close by raising property taxes through supplemental levies.

But we’re not doing that this time. That’s because nobody seems to care that legislators continually ignore their oath of office by underfunding public education. We have never heard a question – not one – to an incumbent legislator on the topic. Never. And we’ve been to our share of meetings with legislators.

Not one question. Ever.

Interestingly, despite the silence when legislators visit, every supplemental levy election brings a considerable number of complaints about the additional tax. There are letters-to-the-editor and plenty of criticism directed at the levy. All of which makes some sense. We get it that this is an awful way to pay for schools.

But until voters raise heck with legislators to stop forcing us to raise our property taxes – while boasting they did not raise taxes when they were in Boise – nothing will change.

And that’s why we’re not going to drone on about any of the stuff we just droned on about).

But back to where we were.

Next week’s vote is different than previous elections because trustees have given patrons a clear choice. They laid out, quite specifically, what will be cut should voters reject the levy.

Among the items on the list:

- Close UpRiver School

- Eliminate art, music

- Cut all athletics

- Eliminate shop,

construction

- Fire all special

education aides

- Cut maintenance

- Cut technology

- Cut office staff

The list goes on, but you get the drift. It takes a lot of hacking to cut the budget enough to make up for the missing $2.073 million should voters opt to nix this levy.

So the choice is clear. If you think the cuts make sense – and do take time to review the entire list – then vote NO.

But we think most people will agree that these cuts would decimate our schools – and because of that they will join us with a YES vote.

But it all comes down to turnout. Last time, some 600 patrons – including an embarrassing number of school employees – were too busy to go the polls.

That has to change Tuesday, or the cuts are coming. – DAN HAMMES

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