Pocatello trustees approve language for $33 million bond ask

Pocatello/Chubbuck trustees approved a $33 million bond ask for the May 21 election at a special meeting Thursday — a backup plan in case a major facilities bill that would direct an estimated $43 million to the district fails.  

The proposed 10-year bond would be used to rebuild and remodel Highland High, which was partially destroyed in a fire last spring. 

School leaders were up against a March 22 deadline to approve bond language, and were delaying the decision in the hopes that House Bill 521 would become law and negate the need to again ask taxpayers to pitch in for school improvements. 

But the bill was not progressing quickly enough, so trustees decided to approve the bond language for a potential election. They have until the last week of March to cancel the election, according to Jonathan Balls, the district’s director of business operations.

“We continue to await the results of this proposed legislation,” Board Chair Deanna Judy said. “With or without this new funding, we have a responsibility to return Highland High School to a fully functioning high school as soon as possible.”

The bond would supplement an estimated $25 million that the district’s insurer is expected to provide after an accidental electrical fire “left behind a trail of lost or damaged facilities, including the gymnasium, cafeteria, weight room, band, orchestra, and choir rooms.”

According to the ballot language, the funds would be used for:

  • Replacing facilities lost or damaged in the April 2023 fire
  • Adding, remodeling, and modernizing science classrooms
  • Replacing and increasing the size of the gymnasium and activity space
  • Constructing an auditorium

The bond would cost taxpayers $50 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value per year. If it passes, the district would aim to complete the Highland rebuild by fall 2027.  

“I appreciate the Board’s diligence in looking at this challenge from every angle to balance fiscal responsibility with our obligation to educate learners in safe and functional facilities that are conducive to their overall educational experience and development,” Douglas Howell, the Pocatello/Chubbuck superintendent, said in a press release

This bond is scaled down from the $45 million ask voters rejected in November; trustees dropped a proposed project to upgrade gym facilities at Century High. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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