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Pocatello trustees approve language for $33 million bond ask

File footage of Highland High School fire in 2023.
(Idaho Ed News) — Pocatello/Chubbuck trustees approved a $33 million bond ask for the May 21 election at a special meeting Thursday — a backup plan in case a major facilities bill that would direct an estimated $43 million to the district fails.  
The proposed 10-year bond would be used to rebuild and remodel Highland High, which was partially destroyed in a fire last spring. 
RELATED | Gym and cafeteria a complete loss after blaze at Highland High School
RELATED | $45 million bond to rebuild Highland High School fails in Pocatello/Chubbuck
A bond in limbo: Pocatello hopes state money will rebuild burned school instead
School leaders were up against a March 22 deadline to approve bond language, and were delaying the decision in the hopes that House Bill 521 would become law and negate the need to again ask taxpayers to pitch in for school improvements. 
But the bill was not progressing quickly enough, so trustees decided to approve the bond language for a potential election. They have until the last week of March to cancel the election, according to Jonathan Balls, the district’s director of business operations.
“We continue to await the results of this proposed legislation,” Board Chair Deanna Judy said. “With or without this new funding, we have a responsibility to return Highland High School to a fully functioning high school as soon as possible.”
The bond would supplement an estimated $25 million that the district’s insurer is expected to provide after an accidental electrical fire “left behind a trail of lost or damaged facilities, including the gymnasium, cafeteria, weight room, band, orchestra, and choir rooms.”
RELATED | GALLERY: Highland High School fire on April 21
According to the ballot language, the funds would be used for:

Replacing facilities lost or damaged in the April 2023 fire
Adding, remodeling, and modernizing science classrooms
Replacing and increasing the size of the gymnasium and activity space
Constructing an auditorium

The bond would cost taxpayers $50 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value per year. If it passes, the district would aim to complete the Highland rebuild by fall 2027.  
“I appreciate the board’s diligence in looking at this challenge from every angle to balance fiscal responsibility with our obligation to educate learners in safe and functional facilities that are conducive to their overall educational experience and development,” Douglas Howell, the Pocatello/Chubbuck superintendent, said in a press release. 
This bond is scaled down from the $45 million ask voters rejected in November; trustees dropped a proposed project to upgrade gym facilities at Century High.
Originally posted on on March 14, 2024
The post Pocatello trustees approve language for $33 million bond ask appeared first on East Idaho News.

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