Idaho Falls’ record-high bond fails, while measures pass in Bonneville and Fremont

Idaho Falls School District’s $250 million bond issue — the largest to ever make it onto an Idaho ballot — failed Tuesday when only 58% of voters approved the measure, well short of the required 66.67% supermajority. 

The record-breaking bond would have funded construction of a new Idaho Falls High School, two new elementary schools, and extensive upgrades to Skyline High school.

It’s the third time since 2017 that Idaho Falls property owners have rejected the district’s requests for facilities funding. 

“Although I am disappointed with the result, I have great respect for the parents and patrons of our district,” Jim Shank, the Idaho Falls superintendent, said in a prepared statement. “As we look ahead, we will again turn to (patrons for their input) on how best to move forward, on what is needed, and how to engage the D91 community for the benefit of the 10,300 students we serve.”

District leaders said the new schools would have addressed overcrowding issues: Sunnyside Elementary is at 145% capacity and Idaho Falls High is at 141% capacity. Upgrades to Skyline High revolve around a range of safety concerns and other improvements.

Officials have said that if the bond didn’t pass, they may have to resort to year-round school or split sessions to accommodate all the students. 

In his statement, Shank said the district would “analyze the facilities options available to us and seek to address the growth of our community as it relates to our families and their educational needs.”

Bonneville’s $13.1 million measures pass

Voters approved both of Bonneville Joint School District’s education measures Tuesday, totaling $13.1 million.

“We’re just really grateful to our voters and our patrons for coming out and recognizing the needs we have in the district and being willing to support those needs,” said Scott Woolstenhulme, Bonneville’s superintendent. “We’re just glad we don’t have to be looking at making some really hard decisions if they didn’t pass.”

The district’s two-year, $11.6 million supplemental levy passed with 58% of voters in favor of the measure, which will help pay for classroom supplies, a school resource officer, coaches, extracurricular activities advisors and other positions. The levy required a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass. 

Voters also approved a $1.5 million request for construction cost savings and interest earnings from the proceeds of a previously approved $30.5 million in bonds for updates and “repairing, renovating, remodeling, equipping and furnishing other existing schools and facilities.” The measure required a supermajority (two-thirds or 66.67%) to pass, and surpassed that benchmark with 75% approval. 

Woolstenhulme said he was especially appreciative of voters’ support in light of “a really interesting economic climate that we all live in right now.”

“Inflation and rising property values put pressures on families, so I really didn’t know what to expect going into this,” he said.

Woolstenhulme did note that the levy’s 58% pass rate is one of the lowest the district has seen, which likely reflects financial hardships families may be facing.

Fremont County Joint School District’s $3 million levy passes

Voters in Fremont and Madison counties approved Fremont County School District’s two-year, $3 million levy request. About 56% voted in favor of the measure and 44% voted against it, which required a simple majority to pass.

“We’re really grateful and appreciative,” Ben Garcia, the district’s co-interim superintendent, said. “I figured it may be tight … we have inflation and people are worried about their pocketbooks.”

The funds will cover textbooks, technology, musical instruments, building security needs and to “attract and retain highly qualified staff.”

 

Carly Flandro

About Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works in EdNews’ East Idaho bureau. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity, and equity. You can follow Flandro on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips at [email protected]

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