Bonneville district unlikely to bond in November

IDAHO FALLS — After nixing a $58 million bond issue for a new middle school, the Bonneville School District is back to square one on how best to absorb a dizzying influx of elementary-age students.

During a board meeting last Wednesday, trustees explored anew the likelihood of putting a bond issue for a new elementary school or middle school — or both — on the November ballot.

Twin Falls students await a groundbreaking ceremony in 2015.

The conclusion at this point? Not very likely, at least not by November.

For now, trustees are unclear about when to ask patrons for the $29-65 million needed to fund the construction of facilities equipped to handle all the growth. The last day to pre-register for the November election is Sep. 18. The next available election date is March 2018.

“In my personal opinion, it seems rushed and that we’re really not prepared to put it on the (November) ballot at this point,” said board chairmen Paul Jenkins.

Further complicating the board’s resolve to bond in November is neighboring Idaho Falls School District’s plan to float a $110 million bond issue.

Idaho Falls announced last month that it will put the mammoth bond measure on the November ballot. These funds would go toward extensive renovations to one of Idaho Falls’ two high schools and to a complete rebuild of the other.

Though both school districts are located in Bonneville County, the two measures would wind up on separate county ballots. And Bonneville County patrons would only be able to vote on the measure presented by their school district.

Administrators in both districts say growth and increased property values would keep property owners safe from tax hikes.

Still, taxpayers have expressed concerns over the prospect of simultaneous bond issues in November.

“I have a house in the Idaho Falls School District, but my business is in the Bonneville School District, so this could be a double-whammy for me.” Shana Poulsen, owner of C & S Auto Repair on Iona Road, told Idaho Education News last month.

But the potential collision course for taxpayer dollars is just one reason Bonneville trustees are hesitant to move forward by November. Trustees are at odds over how to best accommodate the district’s growth. Some have backed plans for both a new middle school and elementary school. Others have argued that a new middle school alone would suffice.

Bonneville superintendent Chuck Shackett said trustees should iron out these differences before moving forward with any measure.

“I think it’s important to find something we can settle on unanimously,” he said.

Bonneville trustees say they will hold a work session later this month to discuss the issue in more depth. Stay with Idaho Education News for breaking coverage and further developments.

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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