Bonneville drops $25 million elementary school bond measure

IDAHO FALLS — The Bonneville School District will no longer put a $25 million bond issue for a new elementary school on the March ballot.

It will, however, still include a $35.3 million measure for a new middle school and other upgrades.

Trustees last month approved a $60 million proposal for both projects, but legal concerns unveiled during a board meeting Wednesday prompted the school board to backpedal on the elementary school portion of the measure.

Trustees had considered including the elementary school option on a contingent basis — it could only pass if the middle school bond measure passed. Nicholas Miller, a lawyer at Hawley Troxell law firm, told trustees that tying measures together this way could conflict with Idaho law by encouraging “log rolling,” or forcing proponents of one measure into approving another.

The school board debated two options for avoiding the potential pitfall:

  1. running the measures completely separately, or
  2. nixing the elementary option, which at least three trustees viewed as secondary to the middle school option.

Despite dissent from trustee Scott Lynch, who pegged the elementary option as his top priority, the board voted 4-1 to drop the elementary school measure.

A spokesperson for the district confirmed Thursday that administrators had already filed paperwork with Bonneville County’s elections office to get the revised, $35.3 million measure on the March ballot.

Though trustees tabled the proposal for a new elementary school, board chair Paul Jenkins and trustee Chad Dance reiterated that it wasn’t out of the discussion, and could still wind up on the ballot sometime later this year.

“I would like to see both, but I think it’s important to move forward as unified as we can,” Jenkins said.

Wednesday’s decision caps off a long — and contentious — path toward further curbing the district’s long-running growth problem. Here’s a look at how the measure for new infrastructure has evolved since June:

  • June 28: Trustees agreed to put a $58.5 million bond issue for a new middle school on the August 2017 ballot.
  • July 12:  The board scrapped the $58.5 million measure, following the election of new trustee Scott Lynch.
  • Dec. 13: Trustees reintroduced a $60 million measure to put both a new elementary school and a new middle school on the March ballot.
  • Jan. 17: Trustees table the elementary school portion of the $60 million bond issue, bringing the total to $35.3 million.

Wednesday’s revised measure also includes costs for a new roof at Iona Elementary School, a Falls Valley Elementary School parent drop-off loop and design services.

If approved, the middle school will likely be built on 40 district-owned acres adjacent to the nearly completed Thunder Ridge High School.

The measure needs a two-thirds supermajority of votes to pass.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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