American Falls scales back bond amount

The American Falls School District has downsized its plans for a new school, reducing the financial burden a looming bond would place on local patrons.

Last May, district officials proposed a $12.5 million bond issue for a new intermediate school to help alleviate overcrowding at the district’s Hillcrest Elementary. Support for the bond fell shy of the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass. As a result, the district downsized the proposed school by 14,000 square feet, simultaneously slashing the facility’s projected price tag by almost $4 million.

A new $9 million bond issue for the school will go before voters March 14, says Misty Inglet of KIFI TV.

“We’ve done our homework, we’ve done our surveys and so forth, and we’ve learned what is wanted, what is needed,” said Superintendent Ron Bolinger. “And we’re hoping it happens this time.”

Click here for an in-depth look at how East Idaho school districts are adjusting to an influx of settling migrant workers.

The American Falls School District has long grappled with overcrowding at Hillcrest, a problem fueled largely by a dizzying influx of young migrant families finding permanent jobs and housing in the agricultural town of 4,314.

The resulting growth, concentrated primarily at the elementary level, has forced educators at Hillcrest to cobble learning space in odd areas throughout the building. Last year, teachers converted a hallway into a makeshift computer lab to free up class space for third graders, but the tables and chairs lining the corridor violated the city’s fire code and had to be removed.

Another short-term fix came in the form of a doublewide modular trailer, which carries a $1,240 monthly price tag and frees up space by housing two of the school’s third-grade classes. But this year’s rowdy winter weather has left some parents and teachers concerned about students forced to trudge between the modular unit and the school building during lunchtime and at other hours throughout the day. Teachers say the units also lack necessary storage space.

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Ron Bollinger
Ron Bolinger

Homeowners with an assessed property value of $100,000, would see a $3.33 per-month bump in their property taxes if the new bond passes, Bollinger said. But that increase would only happen after the district’s current bond for American Falls High School comes off the books in August 2018. The current high school bond costs taxpayers with assessed property value of $100,000 about $6.65 a month.

Reducing the proposed intermediate school’s original square footage cut into instructional space, Bolinger acknowledged. However, future additions can add instructional space back onto the building on a piecemeal basis, if needed.

East Idaho’s Ririe to float a bond

Trustees in the Ririe School District, located 17 miles northeast of Idaho Falls, say they need a five-year $825,000 bond to upgrade facilities and help with future bus purchases.

A PowerPoint uploaded to Ririe’s webpage pegs the measure a “win-win” because the proposed bond’s $165,000 annual payout would enable the district to cut its $385,000 supplemental levy to $220,000.

Robbing from the levy to feed a bond would keep property taxes where they are, administrators say, simultaneously enabling the district to tap into state subsidies reserved for interest payments on bonds.

Idaho’s bond levy equalization fund, stocked annually by a portion of state lottery revenue, helps districts pay down interest incurred by bond issues. Ririe officials say they will use this interest revenue, which they peg at 28 percent over a five-year period, to save up to $231,000 on bus purchases.

The rub is that bond’s require more votes — a supermajority of 66.6 percent in Idaho — to pass, while supplemental levies require a simple majority.

Ririe patrons with homes assessed at $100,000 pay $11.25 per month for the levy.