The Twin Falls School District is asking voters for $73.8 million in the form of a 25 year bond. The district says it needs the money because their elementary schools are overcrowded and their middle and high schools soon will be.
Twin Falls is experiencing a bit of a food processing boom. Yogurt maker Chobani, cheese maker Glanbia and energy-food maker Clif Bar have all opened new plants, expanded operations or announced plans to build in Twin falls in the past two years.
Those new jobs have brought an influx of people, a lot of them young families. Brady Dickinson is not complaining about that. He says it’s great for the community but it has created challenges at the school district where he’s operations director.
Dickinson says in the past two years the district has experienced double the growth it had planned for. It went from 7,791 students in the fall of 2011 to 8,633 last fall. As the school year progresses enrollment is nearing the 8,700 mark.
Dickinson says even the expected growth rate would have meant asking for a bond this year but it would have been much smaller. The district would have built another elementary school and maybe a new middle school.
“Unfortunately if we build one elementary school it’ll be full the day it opens,” Dickinson says. “And we’ll immediately be going back to the community and asking for more money to build another elementary school and so we really came to the conclusion we’re better off if we just address this now. If we piecemeal it we’re going to be going back to the community every couple of years.”
The bond the district is now asking for will build two elementary schools, a middle school, expand a high school and provide upgrades to all existing buildings. But Dickinson admits even he had sticker-shock when he first saw that $73.8 million price tag, and he knows voters did too.
Anna Scholes says that dollar figure is her biggest challenge. Scholes is a Twin Falls pharmacist, mother of two district students and a volunteer with the group campaigning for the bond.
“I think when people hear that number they think ‘wow, that’s a lot of money,’” Scholes says. “When we break it down and they see how affordable it is then the sticker-shock seems to subside somewhat.”
Affordable is, of course, a relative term. The district estimates someone with a $150,000 home would see their tax bill go up by $50 a year. Scholes believes the community supports the proposal so far, but says she knows getting the two-thirds majority needed to pass a bond will be difficult.
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