IDAHO FALLS — The Bonneville School District’s $42.7 million plan to upgrade facilities is not needed, ill-advised and expensive for taxpayers, a local opposition group claims.
D93 Citizens last week decried the district’s plan to ask taxpayers for $18.7 million to fund construction of a 500-student elementary school and $24 million to add eight new science classrooms to Bonneville and Hillcrest high schools.
The group outlined 13 “key objections” to the looming bond issue, questioned the need for new classrooms and detailed concerns over a local tax hike.
“With higher (property) valuations, this (measure) will result in a BIG tax increase,” the group wrote.
The group’s claims ramp up debate ahead of the Aug. 27 election. Trustees, who unanimously approved putting the measure on the August ballot, say prolonged population growth and aging facilities fuel the need for upgrades.
Bonneville Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme repeated his past assurance that increased property valuations and new construction will cover the debt service tied to the measure without raising the district’s levy rate.
“Those two things will combine to help pay for the cost of this,” Woolstenhulme said.
In addition to concerns over local taxes, D93 Citizens’ took aim at the district’s claim that the high schools’ science labs need updates aligned with modern standards.
“If this is true, who fell asleep at the wheel?” the group wrote, adding that the district pays people “to keep all schools in good repair.”
Bonneville is one of Idaho’s fastest growing districts. With nearly 13,000 students, securing local funding for structural upgrades has been a struggle. Due largely to its rural and agricultural tax base, Bonneville generates less local revenue than other districts its size. As a result, patrons pay one of the highest levy rates in Idaho.
Last year, Bonneville patrons approved a $35.3 million bond issue for a new middle school. Three months later, the district’s new $63.5 million Thunder Ridge High School opened its doors.
In November, Woolstenhulme stressed his commitment not to raise the district’s levy rate, despite continued population growth. The first-year superintendent pointed to an increase in local revenue of almost $4 million since 2014 — coming from the district’s still-developing tax base.
“That’s going to help us a lot,” Woolstenhulme said at the time.
Click here to view a summary of costs and projects tied to the measure.
Idaho requires a two-thirds majority of supporting votes for a bond issue to pass.