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School districts will still be able to run bond and levy elections in August, after a vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday.

The committee killed a bill that would have eliminated the August election date — one of four days when school districts can bring ballot measures before voters.

The voice vote came after Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder said the election debate was a symptom of a much larger issue: a state K-12 budget that leaves more than 90 school districts reliant on voter-approved supplemental levies.

“I wouldn’t say it’s criminal that we have to have supplemental levies, but it’s pretty close to that,” said Winder, R-Boise.

In many ways, Wednesday’s committee hearing was a reprise of a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee in February.

West Ada School District chief financial officer Jonathan Gillen and Middleton School Board Chairman Kirk Adams told senators that their districts’ August levies helped head off staff cuts for 2020-21. The Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators both spoke against the bill, reminding committee members that the districts had agreed several years ago to a consolidated election calendar.

“(This) feels completely unfair to us,” said Quinn Perry, policy and government affairs director for the ISBA.

Deputy secretary of state Jason Hancock again pushed for House Bill 106, saying it would give counties a much-needed summer pause in the elections cycle — time they could use for training or checking voter rolls. While only nine to 12 counties a year conduct August elections, counties such as Canyon and Madison have been running elections every August for several years.

“It’s a pace that they didn’t have to run at 10 years ago,” Hancock said.

While the debate was a rerun, the outcome was different. A month ago, House State Affairs endorsed House Bill 106 on nearly a party-line vote, setting the stage for the bill to pass the House 45-24.

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