IDAHO FALLS — After months of reorganization, Bonneville Joint School District 93 has approved a scaled back, $56.1 million school bond plan to address school overcrowding.
The 17.5-year bond proposal is slated to appear on the ballot March 10. The measure, which seeks construction of a new high school, received unanimously approval from D93’s school board Wednesday.
The new plan comes nearly a year after District 93 attempted a 30-year, $92 million school bond to build a new high school and middle school. That plan was overwhelmingly defeated by voters in March 2014.
“I think we’ve done a much better job listening to our community this time,” Superintendent Chuck Shackett said. “We were trying to take too big of a bite at once.”
After the defeat of the initial bond, the district reassessed its options and went back to the community — specifically to patrons who voted against the bond.
“We told them what we needed …. and said that whatever you tell us, that is what we are going to run the bond for,” Shackett said.
The board based its decision on recommendations from the Facility Planning Committee, a group comprised of patrons both for and against the original bond. The committee came to the conclusion a new high school was the best way to reduce overcrowding.
District 93’s high schools have been at or near capacity for several years.
“Adding additional classrooms without expanding the core capacity of the schools would result in even more severe crowding, creating greater concerns for students’ safety,” committee member Barrett Hillier said in a news release.
District 93 solicited further input from a finance committee led by Mark Bird, a local actuary. Bird was part of an organized opposition to the $92 million bond in 2014. Shackett recruited him for the committee because of his concerns.
“I was strongly opposed to the first bond primarily because of the amount of interest,” Bird said. “It had a price tag with an additional $113 million in interest over 30 years, which is just lost money for the district.”
The $56.1 million plan comes with only $21.1 million in interest (for a total of $77.2 million) thanks to a lower interest rate and a significantly shorter loan term.
“I’m behind this now because it’s a better financial proposal,” Bird said.
The proposed school is slated to initially educate some 1,500 students with a capacity of between 1,800 and 2,000 students. Unlike the other major high schools in the district this school will not include a stadium or performing arts center in order to reduce costs.
If the bond passes, construction of a new high school would begin within a year with the goal of opening to students in fall 2018.
Idaho Falls District 91 to seek supplemental levy renewal
Idaho Falls School District 91 is asking its patrons to renewal a two-year $6.8 million supplemental levy on March 10.
District 91 has had a supplemental levy for more than 30 years, but district officials have kept the levy rate at $6.8 million since 2003, despite reductions in state funding.
“As board members we take the role of being stewards of taxpayer money very seriously. We work very hard to run an efficient district, but one that also meets the needs of our students, staff and patrons,” Board Chairwoman Lisa Burtenshaw said in a news release.
The district uses supplemental funding for a wide variety of tasks ranging from training staff to purchasing technology.
“The supplemental levy is supplemental in name only,” Superintendent George Boland said. “It is a critical part of the budget that supports our efforts to recruit and retain the highest quality teachers, and to ensure all students graduate with the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to be successful after high school.”
IdahoEdNews.org reporter Nate Sunderland can be reached at email@example.com.