CWI charts its rebound from failed bond election

Teya Vitu//November 30, 2016

CWI charts its rebound from failed bond election

Teya Vitu//November 30, 2016

CWI had hoped to build a Boise campus on this parcel on the Boise River, west of downtown Boise, for $8.8 million. Photo by Pete Grady.
CWI had hoped to build a Boise campus on this parcel on the Boise River, west of downtown Boise. A $180 million bond measure for the project failed Nov. 8. File photo.

A small committee will come up with recommendations for College of Western Idaho’s future in response to the Nov. 8 defeat of its $180 million bond measure.

The CWI Board of Trustees met to talk about the bond Nov. 29 for the first time since the proposal to build a Boise campus and expand the Nampa campus fell short of the required 66.6 percent voter approval. Trustees noted the bond measure did get 57.2 yes votes, even though trustees did not commit to take a bond to the ballot until Sept. 6.

“It’s rather amazing we had 57 percent,” Trustee Stanley Bastian.

Newly seated board Chair Mark Dunham will select people for what he describes as a “small” committee to determine how the college should move forward. The committee will discuss the option of changing the number of proposed buildings, and will take up the issue of using bonding or a levy or some other means to pay for the buildings. It will also discuss means of building greater voter awareness.

“It’s very open-ended,” said Mark Browning, CWI’s vice president of communications and government relations. “I don’t know how much substantive work will take place before the holidays.”

Dunham’s committee, which will likely have two trustees, will come up with recommendations for full Board of Trustees consideration.

“We have to have a very thorough strategy of what we need to do,” Dunham said.

The trustees on Nov. 29 discussed possible reasons the bond measure fell short with voters.

“I don’t think we identified with voters what CWI should do now,” said Trustee Mary Niland, the outgoing board chair. “People said they didn’t vote for it because it was too high. I think there were a lot of new voters turning out to vote who had low wages and think taxes are too high. I don’t think we hit on the messaging to many constituents we serve.”

The $180 million ballot measure proposed a health science building, a central services building, central technical facilities and a Student Success Center for the Nampa campus and the first structure for the proposed Boise campus.

“The naming of a building the Student Success Center: People didn’t know what it was,” Dunham said. “We need to talk to our constituents, business and students to see what we’re going to do.”

CWI had only two months to promote the bond measure and the campaign was run on a “shoestring” budget, he added.

“We tried to do everything but we didn’t have enough time,” Dunham said.

CWI President Bert Glandon said: “Right after the election, we heard from the Boise and Nampa chambers (of commerce) saying ‘We would like to be way more actively involved at the front end.’”

Trustee Emily Walton added: “Next time we do a bond, the student association told me they would like to be more involved.”

CWI legal counsel Nick Miller, an attorney at Hawley Troxell, and Christian Anderson, vice president at Zions Public Finance Inc., presented trustees with facility financing alternatives beyond a bond.

These included a levy, which requires only 55 percent voter approval but is limited to 10 years (bonds can extend for up to 30 years); or an Idaho State Building Authority lease, where ISBA could either own the buildings or issue bonds on behalf of CWI.

“That would be challenging,” Anderson said. “The Legislature would have to approve the funds to do it.”

For a bond or levy, CWI would have to file with the county clerks by March 27 for the May 16 election or Sept. 8 for the Nov. 7 election.

“I would not be in favor of a 10-year levy,” Bastian said. “I think we should try (the bond) at least one more time.”