Idaho Falls faces uncertainty after second bond issue fails

IDAHO FALLS — After two failed attempts in a year to pass a bond issue, uncertainty swirls around the Idaho Falls School District’s quest to update its two high schools.

On Tuesday, Idaho Falls voters rejected the district’s $99.5 million request to rebuild Idaho Falls High School and remodel Skyline High School.

The outcome followed the district’s months-long effort to whittle its previously failed request for $110 million in upgrades to below $100 million.

It was a promising reduction for at least one Idaho Falls School Board member.

“If we can keep it under $100 million, it will pass,” Trustee David Lent said during a May board meeting.

Now, in the wake of the second failed request, district leaders are unsure how things will play out in the coming months.

“All I can say at this point is the board of trustees will meet in the next few weeks to discuss next steps,” said Idaho Falls spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne. The board’s next regular meeting is Sep. 12 at 7 p.m.

Idaho Falls superintendent George Boland told Tuesday that “evidently there’s not a sense of urgency within the community to upgrade and modernize the high schools.”

The bond issue’s opposition group, D91 Taxpayers, called the failed measure a “victory for families, small businesses, working poor and those on fixed incomes that cannot afford an expensive new tax.”

In a prepared statement after the election, the group cautioned the district against another “wasteful proposal” and requested a more integral role in any future plans to further revise the measure.

Over the summer, the district upped its public information campaign following the first failed measure, launching webpages, videos, concept photos and design plans.

Despite the new approach, the pair of revised bond issues for the project fell well short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass Tuesday. The main proposal of $86.2 million received only 58 percent support.

That vote essentially killed the district’s second ballot question, a $13.3 million proposal for a performing arts center and gymnasium-auditorium, which received just 57 percent support.

Tuesday’s outcome was nearly identical to November’s, when just 58 percent of voters supported the district’s original $110 million measure.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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