March 11, 2015
The voters said they don’t want to wait 3 ½ years for solutions to the districts over crowding and have their taxes raised. Of the approximately 22000 registered voters in District 93, only 4829 voted for this plan, or less than 23% of all registered voters.
It should be appalling to voters that District 93 is so brazen in assuming that since they barely lost they should just put their heads down, not realize that 77% of all registered voters did NOT vote for this tax increase, and forge ahead again. If you haven’t heard, the district announced this morning that they want to try the same bond that just was defeated. And they plan on doing it at the next election cycle, which will be May 19, 2015. No changes. No listening to the 77% of “non-yes” voters. Head down, march ahead. All while taking time and resources and attention away from what they were hired to do- teach our children.
What are voters saying?
1. Give us a plan that solves issues before 3 ½ years. Opening a high school in the fall of 2018 is not soon enough. And doing nothing else at the middle school level is unacceptable. Their plan almost ensures split sessions!
2. Give us a comprehensive plan that solves crowding issues at all levels now.
3. Don’t raise tax rates when you don’t need to.
4. Shoot straight with us, we have caught you saying conflicting things multiple times!
We call on voters to come in out in May 19th and say no. Three strikes and you’re out. Give us a better solution, one that solves issues now, without raising taxes now and into the future. There are 3 main plans that can do it (see www.votenod93bond.com for more info).
IN CASE YOU MISSED THESE ON THE RADIO
FREE MONEY ZONE: HOW TO BUILD BUILDINGS WITHOUT RAISING TAXES!
WHAT AND HOW COULD WE BUILD WITH THIS "FREE MONEY"?
View explanatory videos here:
CLICK ON "ADDITIONAL OPTIONS FOR OVERCROWDING" tab above to see the ideas generated by the Facilities Committee, most of which didn't see the light of day!
SEE OUR RESPONSE TO THE DISTRICT'S FACEBOOK VIDEO UNDER THE "ADDITIONAL OPTIONS" TAB!
This option was NEVER considered by the district's citizen's committee and would actually help relieve stress on the core buildings by pulling student foot traffic out of the main building.
So if we don’t support 3
tax increases over 3 school bonds, what options does the district have? Click on the "ADDITIONAL OPTIONS FOR OVERCROWDING" tab above to see the ideas generated by the Facilities Committee, most of
which didn't see the light of day! Below is an option that was never considered:
We believe there are several ways to safely and adequately house District 93 students and do it in a cost effective way. Building “lower campus” buildings at Bonneville and Hillcrest is one brilliant idea that seems to meet everyone’s concerns.
It is called the “lower campus” plan to distinguish it from the concept of “adding on” to the high schools. The district has worked hard to show that building on to Bonneville would be expensive. The main design they considered would have gutted part of the building, move the current office area to a new wing, retrofitted several areas, etc. Heating and other systems would have to be updated to meet current code. Extra students would struggle to access the halls. The district made a good case that adding on to Bonneville in this most expensive way would be cost prohibitive. This is not what we are proposing.
The “lower campus”” plan proposes building a series of small separate, stand-alone structures at Bonneville and Hillcrest that would be mainly classrooms and bathrooms. They could be built as needed, perhaps in 20 classroom phases.
A few key benefits:
1. The district said students don’t learn in trailers. This is a permanent building.
2. Safety. These are safe, permanent buildings.
3. Multi-use. Many classes such as foreign languages, math, and some science don’t require any special rooms.
4. This concept relieves congestion on the core structure of the main building as students are drawn away.
5. This plan keeps freshmen at the high school.
6. Both schools have plenty of room for more parking without tearing up sports fields. The new classroom buildings could be placed where the trailers are now. Parking at Bonneville could be added by the marquee or in the old drivers ed area.
7. This is a proven concept used by ISU, BYUI, EITC and many high schools, including Lincoln High in District 93!
This is significantly different than the current situation with trailers. Permanent buildings can be built to resemble the main structure so they are aesthetically pleasing, and permanent. Of course each would have restrooms. This concept will be attractive to taxpayers and parents alike - building what we need when we need it, for pennies on the dollar when compared to a new high school.
Why do we object to a new high school?A new high school is expensive to design, build, and maintain, and takes years until completion. A secondary side building, which requires no systems upgrade at the main building (hence cheaper and quicker than adding on), can be in service quickly.
A third high school would cost about $3 million in additional costs per year to operate. Add in the costs of a 3rd principal, 3rd football coach, 3rd lunch supervisor, etc. Supplemental bonds would be significantly more than today. And many feel it would be ridiculous for Idaho Falls to become a 5-high school town when Pocatello, a city of approximately the same size, thrives with 3.
The details of the “Lower Campus” plan could be finalized soon and meet our needs today, and then another building or buildings could be built in a few years as student needs grow. The trailers we own could be moved to the Junior Highs, or small classroom buildings could be built there also.
Back to our “Lower Campus” plan: this multi-building classroom concept is what colleges use all over the country. When EITC grew, they didn’t keep building on to their main building. The core capacity didn’t allow it. They continue to build separate buildings that are safe and good for learning. The same is true of BYU Idaho. The Manwaring and Spori Buildings were not added on to. Instead, the administration built more classroom buildings. And Lincoln High School in our own district, was years ago an elementary school. When the district needed to meet student growth, they built a classroom annex as a separate building instead of trying to add on to an older structure. It worked then and it will work now for our district, students. And it will save us all tens of millions of dollars!
We envision two classroom buildings constructed this year, with one at Bonneville High and oe at Hillcrest High this year. The size of each building would match the district projected needs- maybe 20 classrooms each. Add in the $6 million for upcoming elementary school additions, and a few million for upgrades at other schools, and the district could solve all their overcrowding issues for $20 to $25 million!!
Here is the real kicker: the district has revealed that they could bond for an amount up to $31 million dollars WITHOUT RAISING THE AMOUNT CURRENTY PAID BY DISTRICT PROPERTY OWNERS. That amount is more than enough to fund this proposal!
By implementing this “Lower Campus” plan, the students are safely housed with a great deal of capacity for more growth. They win. The 9th graders are kept at the high school, which is a driving desire of the school board, so the board wins. And all growth issues for many years into the future are addressed. All this for less than the currently proposed bond. It would require a single bond of around $25 million or less, WITH NO INCREASE IN PROPERTY TAXES, so the taxpayers win. With some growth in the tax base in the district, this bond could be put on a 10 or 15 year plan, have almost no-out-of-pocket interest after the state lottery money is figured in, and won’t cost taxpayers an additional cent. And because we have only the overhead expenses of two high schools instead of three, future supplemental levy requests would also be lower.
In summary the students, school board, and taxpayers all win! Student growth at all levels is addressed for under a third of the cost of the current district’s 3 bond proposal WITH NO INCREASE IN PROPERTY TAXES.
We ask the board and the advocate group to defeat the current 3-part bond proposal, which in the end will cost us all about $110 million plus interest. Instead, propose to the voters this smarter and cheaper comprehensive “Lower Campus” solution. The right solution, the right cost. Genius. And this concept has already been a proven working model within our district for years at the old Lincoln Elementary!
***See Q & A on this proposal under the "Additional Options" tab at the top of this page.
Recently a patron went to Rocky Mountain
Middle school and there was a flier by the office claiming that the upcoming bond was “the right plan, the right way.” Then at the bottom the promotion continues, “Local tax dollars for local
schools.” By the concession stand at Hillcrest High school hang two more similar posters. And we are getting reports of many more in the district schools.
We have been told this poster may have been placed by a private group whose main leader is a spouse of a district employee. If that happens to be the case then two parties could be violating the law. First, the group maybe violating the law by putting political posters up in public schools. This is sort of like a “vote for (put a name here)” type poster. Second, the schools are used as a polling place which could be a criminal violation. Next, the district is at fault for allowing this to remain up for days or even weeks.
If the posters were hung by the district without outside parties involved it is also a violation of the law. According to Idaho case law (see the “Greater Boise Auditorium District” case), that is an illegal sign because it moves from informational to promotional type of advertising. And it is a one-way message paid for by ALL patrons with no equal opportunity for opposing voices given. It is located by the door where parents come to handle school business. It is probably not only illegal, but we call it dirty politics at its worst because the district should know better. Indeed, they have been told better.
At the Hillcrest Bonneville boys basketball game, a table was set up by the concessions stand promoting support for the bond. But somehow there was no offer for room for opposing viewpoints. At various elementary schools, meeting are being held that go way beyond simply informing people, but go as far as urging all attendees to vote “yes”, and inform them of where to get a “vote yes” yard sign, as well as to “get the word out”. But no time or invitation for the other side was offered. This was done in tax-funded buildings, by public employees paid by those same tax dollars.
If past district behavior is any indication, soon staff, bus drivers, and teachers will be “encouraged” to vote yes and drum up a number of “yes” votes, all in meetings where everyone is on the time clock. This is also illegal.
On the district website the “the right plan the right way” slogan is at the top. Again, this is probably criminal. And it could put the results of the entire election in jeopardy if challenged in court.
We call on the district to take down illegal posters, change their website. They should also know that if the handouts the students bring home promote a certain vote in any way they may put the election results in legal jeopardy. We invite the media to investigate these questionable practices.
See the following piece that was broadcast on KPVI February 24, 2015.
The staff of the district is working hard to post videos and news releases about the upcoming bond inferring that everyone is on board this time because all the concerns of the last bond are now addressed. That really isn’t the case. Here is a list of questions we have heard now and from the last go around. Will the district post answers to each of these?
1. Why hasn’t the district been straight up with the voters that the March 10, 2015, request for a bond is simply the first part of three bonds that are required with this approach? Every press release and district video up until now, February 9, 2015 has left this information out. We have heard that some district employees are finally admitting this when pressed. Let’s have it on the front page at the top of the district and advocates website. “Sit back and hold onto your wallets- this is simply the first of three tax increases we are coming for.” Of course they will never come forward with full disclosure in a bold way.
2. Along that line, isn’t it hugely deceptive to label this bond “a scaled back” request from last year when in reality it is actually going to be a $20 million increase when all three parts are put in place? Last year the request was $92 million. This time the high school, middle school, and elementary add-ons are going to total over $112 million. Why not come clean right now with the numbers?
3. Isn’t it untrue that the interest is 83% less than the last bond? The interest on the first part of the 3 part bond series is less than the interest on the last bond that had all the parts in it, so of course the interest on part of the proposal will be less. But when you add all three parts together what will the total interest be? Tens of millions! Why doesn’t the district come clean and tell us what the interest will be when all three parts of this series of bonds are in place?
4. Isn’t it completely deceptive to tell taxpayers that this solution will only cost just less than $5 per month per $100,000 in valuation? It's actually $88.50 additional taxes per year for the average home in the district. That is just for phase 1, and only IF the economy grows at 2 percent, if we understand the video on the district website. For the other parts of this solution, bonds that will come next year and the year after, we ask what those will cost us all, especially if there is no growth? Is it going to be $10 or $15 per month more? Isn’t the total impact of these 3 bonds going to cost the taxpayers more than the 2014 bond they soundly rejected?
5. The district’s own online polling in the fall of 2014 showed that taxpayers won’t pass a bond for a new high school. Why put so much time, effort, money, and community resources into trying to do what your own surveys (and election results of a year ago) indicate will not pass?
6. According to the bond advocates’ website, after the bond is passed the district is going to take a year and pay $1 million to customize plans for a high school. Why not copy the plan for a simple, newly designed school, that was built in another district or location? Why not a basic design like Shelley’s school, updated to today’s building codes? We could get something started right now. Isn’t the need urgent? Why wait to open the doors until 2018? Why spend $1 million of our money to customize a “Taj Mahal”? Wal-Marts go up in 90 days because they re-use proven plans. LDS churches go up quickly because they reuse the same plans. A school is a different type of building, but the concept of reusing plans is a proven one that saves time and money.
7. Has the district publicly corrected, perhaps in another video, Chairman Winchester’s call to involve the Boy Scouts in handing out pro-bond fliers? The Chairman can be seen in a district video on the district website calling for that. Yet the Boy Scouts’ own rules forbid them from such activity and threaten their tax-free status. Will the district publicly amend or correct her comments on this subject?
8. Please see our newest option and maybe the best community based idea. It is the idea of adding free standing, separate additions to the campuses of Bonneville and Hillcrest. No code updates would be required in the older buildings. The new buildings could have their own HVCA systems and additional restrooms and wide halls. It could be the “Freshman Academy”, as the current schools isolate most freshman classes anyway. It could be open in a year and cost half or less to build. All the district about why the district can’t add on to existing schools goes out the window because these would be separate structures. Many schools use this approach as well as almost all colleges. When they grow, they build separate buildings. Simple, ingenious, cheaper, and quick. Wow, why didn’t the citizens committee come up with something like this? The bond would pass with 85% approval because an approach like this makes sense to the many who will have to pay for it.
So let’s get this straight- in March 2014 the voters of School District 93 overwhelmingly said no to $92 million in debt. So the district adds $30 million to their proposal making all parts equal $122 million in debt, chops it into 3 parts, and then labels the first part as a “scaled down” request. And we are supposed to buy it? Hardly! (The $120 million includes the three bonds the district is planning, and the interest on only the first part. It is unknown the $10s of millions the entire 3 bonds are going to cost.)
This is Fuzzy math at its worst. After the voters screamed NO to so much debt last time, many voters were hoping for a “non- new high school” approach to solve the area’s overcrowding. This town already has 4 high schools, while the Pocatello/Chubbuck area of similar size has just 3. Why a 5th Idaho Falls area high school? They are the most expensive building to build. They are the most expensive buildings to maintain and staff out of all the choices the district could choose. It takes the longest to build as well, not opening until 2018, even if we pass the bond now. There are no clear answers to these questions, except that the district is in love with the idea of assuming as much debt as possible. Even the day before their Facilities Committee (stacked with their staff members) met, the district revealed in the Post Register their plans to get the idea of a new high school to be the groups top choice! We must say “No, not so fast, not again!”
For those who are only reading the district’s press releases which do not tell the complete plan, here it is: propose a $56 million dollar high school now, then a $6 million elementary school add on next year, followed by a $45 million dollar bond proposal for new middle school. Remember that there will be millions of dollars in interest to go along with that debt. This is just too much! In addition to concealing the total proposal and its costs, the district has not revealed the total monthly tax increase all three parts of their proposal will eventually cost each tax payer. In this case, it really is all about the money.
The state sets limits on how much debt the district can assume. Remember, this is your debt, not theirs. This approach nearly max’s out the district’s bonding capacity. In other words, it plunges us all into massive debt.
The sad thing is that 12 cheaper alternatives were glanced over at one of their Facilities Committee meetings in less than an hour. Most alternatives hardly saw the light of day. And none was examined as a business would- ya know, that old fashion “cost vs. benefit” approach. If we ran our households by going into the most debt our credit card companies would allow, most would be bankrupt. Likewise, a school district going into as much debt as possible WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS is not wise. And when the district calls their approach a “scaled back” bond request without revealing this is just the first of 3 parts to THEIR choice of solutions, it seems to be nothing more than “Vodoo Bonding.”
We all sent a message last year that $92 million was too much debt. Let’s send the same message that $122 million in debt is also not acceptable! On March 10th please vote No, once again! The taxpayers deserve better.
The location of the proposed middle school and high school has always been a concern. Land was bought at about double the market price and THEN traffic routes were discussed. In a community meeting January 29, 2015 it was pointed out to the district that they do not get to choose traffic routes, rather Road and Bridge and the county does.
Besides paying a huge amount for the initial land, the district also spent over $400,000 for adjacent property right after the last bond failed miserably. That’s $400,000 that could have improved a science lab or be used for building projects. Didn’t they read the bond results?
Another issue is that the area is known to have lava rock. In a weak attempt to answer the lava rock concern the district posted this face book video: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1013072932042850
The problem with this response is that while no basements are going to be built at the high school (why not, Bonneville has one and it’s used) , there are underground utilities that will need to be dug. Before anyone brushes the importance of this under the rug, be advised that some multi-millionaire investors went bankrupt trying to put utilities trenches in an area with lava rock up off Iona road in an area called Blackhawk Estates. They lost millions trying to trench water and sewer and such. If the District hits lava, no big deal. They cannot go bankrupt. They will simply do what Madison district did when they fell short- they will pass an emergency extra bond for the last few million to finish the high school.
At the January 29, 2015 community meeting a patron suggested that before they attempt another bond that they do a $10,000 study to make sure that the site will be feasible. The district’s response: they don’t have an extra $10,000 to make sure before they bond. Really? They had $400,000 to buy extra land right after the massive bond failure. Sell an acre and do your tests before you ask voters to spend over $120 million over 3 new bonds.
There they go again. The voters soundly rejected the idea of a new high school and the school board didn’t hear what the voters said. So they got together a group and hired a professional to lead some discussions. On the surface it seemed like a good idea. The group met for 4 nights. They had discussions on all sorts of things, including a “world café” where people were encouraged to speak from their heart. The problem of course is that this is a business/financial question where numbers spoke to the voters and when the numbers got too big the voters said no.
So after all the group-building exercises were over the business of examining selected options came up. At least 15 options were discussed in less than a single hour. Discussed is a generous term. Some were skimmed over. No option was examined from a “cost competitive” view point. What do the different options cost per student? What is the life of each proposal and cost per year? What is the cheapest but adequate (safety) option? Needless to say many good people were swayed into voting for the “best option” whatever that means.
Sort of like the best vacation is to Maui instead of to Lagoon. Or the best car is that new Cadillac instead of a used mini-van.
A private business, when considering spending $50 million or more, would never discuss alternatives in about 1 hour and would surely do a deep dive into what would be the best option to give those paying for it the biggest bang for their buck.
The next bond will sadly fail, and maybe then those involved will finally take on the viewpoint of the tax payer and give us a cost effective bond, not just the fanciest, most expensive and “best” option, whatever that means.