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Debate over Idaho Falls School District bond

After two years of planning, the Idaho Falls School District decided it needs to update its high schools to 21st century standards.

A new $110 million bond would create a new Idaho Falls High School and update 80 percent of Skyline High School. The current Idaho Falls High School would be repurposed.

“They just weren’t designed for the kind of instruction we do today,” Maragaret Wimborne, Director of Communications for Idaho Falls School District, said. “And they weren’t really designed with some of the services that we provide. You know Title 9, Special Ed, some of those kinds of things weren’t even around when these buildings were constructed.”

“To keep up with technology, keep up with progression and education, philosophy’s and techniques,” Kris Smith, member of the BuildUp D91 group said.

But, not everyone is on board with the new bond.

“It’s over the top, unnecessary,” Lisa Keller, member of the D91 Taxpayers group, said. “It’s a no-bid bond, that is not wise use of taxpayer’s money. It is a bad choice to move down south of town. And it’s just not well thought out and well developed.”

Keller is part of the D91 Taxpayers group who is against the bond. One of their issues is with the district promoting a no tax rate increase.

“The tax base is not growing at the rate it has to grow to pay, to keep our levy rate the same,” Keller said. “The numbers don’t support that.”

However, the district disagrees. They say there will not be an increase to the levy tax based on growth they’ve seen in the area.

“All of that means additional revenue for the school district,” Wimborne said. “And every other taxing entity for the city as well. It would be a couple of years of five percent growth, a couple of years of 2.5 percent growth and then a number of years at zero percent growth.”

The district used a process of request for qualifications to get the plans for the schools together. It’s the same process they used for the elementary school bond back in 2012.

“We had a number of design team, a number of construction managers respond,” Wimborne said. “We evaluated their proposals, we had a committee look at them and then gave some criteria and then picked the team that we thought would do the best job for the district.”

However, the D91 Taxpayers are concerned about this process being used.

“And so they hired the company before the company even gave them numbers of what it’s gonna cost,” Keller said. “And that’s a concern. That doesn’t seem like a wise financial decision and poor money management.”

Even with both side battling, it’s still a representation of an engaged community that cares for their future.

“I think it’s fair anytime you have a bond that’s up, to have a nice healthy debate in the community about how we educate our kids and how we move forward,” Curtis Smith, member of BuildUp D91, said.

The vote for the bond takes place November 7th. If you want to find out more about D91 Taxpayers go here. If you want to find out more about BuildUp D91 go here.

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