Idaho Falls edges closer to revised high school bond issue

IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho Falls School District is closer to proposing a revised bond issue to upgrade its high schools.

During a work session Thursday, trustees agreed to further consider floating a bond issue for just under $100 million sometime later this year.

Trustees could vote to approve a measure for this amount at their next scheduled board meeting Wednesday, or simply opt for more discussion.

An official agenda for next week’s meeting will provide further clarity, district spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne said.

“I think it will be a discussion item,” Wimborne said.

The proposal considered Thursday includes a “base bond” option of $87.9 million, which would cover major project costs:

  • A new $54.5 million Idaho Falls High School.
  • Extensive upgrades to Skyline High School, costing $28.4 million.
  • A $2 million project to transform existing Idaho Falls High into a career-technical school.

    Trustee Deidre Warden listens to discussion about revising a measure to upgrade Idaho Falls high schools.

Trustees also agreed to add two other items to this base bond: $2.4 million for eight additional classrooms at the new Idaho Falls High, bringing the school’s capacity closer to 1,500 students; and a $1.6 million, two-lane indoor track at Skyline High.

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Current enrollment at Idaho Falls High is around 1,200. Wimborne didn’t have immediate access to the school’s capacity.

As a tiered, “secondary” option, trustees are considering an additional $13.3 million for a 990-seat auditorium at Skyline and a 400-seat practice “gymatorium” at the new Idaho Falls High.

This option would appear as a separate ballot question if approved by the board. It would also bring the total request to slightly more than $100 million — or about $10 million less than the district’s controversial $110 million high school bond issue that failed in November.

However, trustees said they are determined to keep the overall request under $100 million by trimming costs in some areas and using some of the district’s reserves to help fund the project. Partially completing the eight additional classrooms at Idaho Falls High is one way to stay under budget, they said.

“If we can keep it under $100 million, it will pass,” said trustee David Lent.

Consensus on the amounts came after more than two hours of discussion, with the board wrestling over district needs, as opposed to what voters might approve.

“What we like and what we can pass are two different things,” said trustee Larry Haws.

The board also discussed the measure’s potential impact on the district’s levy rate. Financial experts at Piper Jaffray, the asset management firm in line to sell the project’s bonds, are again projecting no increase to the district’s levy rate of $424 per $100,000 of taxable value.

The district could run the bond issue as early as August.

Stay with Idaho Education News for further developments on this story. 

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