In wake of nixed levy, Idaho Falls’ next move is complicated

After a judge invalidated Idaho Falls School District’s $33 million levy, which would have funded a new elementary school, trustees are considering next steps — an effort complicated by the ongoing legislative session. 

“Be prepared for a May 21 election,” Nick Miller, a lawyer and partner at Hawley Troxell, advised trustees in a work session presentation last week. 

But a decision on whether to run a ballot measure, or what kind (a bond or plant facilities levy), will likely have to wait until March, due to “Legislative Actions,” Miller advised. 

Nick Miller, a partner at Hawley-Troxell law firm. Photo:

The 2024 Legislature is in session for about two more months. A key issue: whether Gov. Brad Little’s proposal to invest $2 billion in school facilities over the next decade has enough support from lawmakers, and if so, at what cost. 

According to Miller’s presentation, House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, might attach the condition that the August school election be killed. That comes after the March school election was slashed last session, a provision included in House Bill 292, which provided schools with $100 million to apply to bonds or levies and lower tax impacts. 

There’s also the possibility — according to Miller — that the state’s bond subsidy (financial assistance that offsets bonds’ costs for qualifying districts) could “transfer over” to the governor’s funding proposal, reducing its impact. 

Another complication: how to communicate with taxpayers about how HB 292 impacts them.

The Pocatello/Chubbuck School District recently opted to use the new law as an opportunity to present its proposed $45 million bond, for improvements at two high schools, as having a “net zero impact.” But a local government watchdog group criticized that messaging as misleading, arguing that it didn’t make clear that taxpayers would save money if the bond measure failed. 

Hawley Troxell counseled Pocatello/Chubbuck on that failed bond attempt, and Miller acknowledged in his presentation that the messaging “arguably backfired.” 

“Better view now is to not refer to HB 292 funds on the Ballot at all,” Miller’s presentation said. “Net … tax burden increases with a bond so be up front and say so.”

Miller advised trustees to keep ballot language to the required minimum. 

For those unable to attend the work session in person (including EdNews Reporter Carly Flandro), the slides provide the only insight into the conversation that took place during the work session, which was not recorded (due to upgrading audio/video equipment, a spokesperson said) and for which draft meeting minutes (obtained through a public records request) were minimal.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Another wrinkle trustees are facing: their two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levy expires in summer 2025. Miller advised they ask for another levy at the May 2025 election. 

Trustees will continue the discussion over how to move forward at the next work session, though it’s unclear when that will take place. 

EdNews reached out to Idaho Falls Board Chair Hillary Radcliffe Tuesday morning for comment on possible next steps, but did not immediately hear back. We will update this story if more information becomes available.

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.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday