Response to the D91 Taxpayers Letter

A letter was recently sent to Idaho Falls area businesses from a group called D91 Taxpayers claiming that our proposal to rebuild and redesign our high schools will create a huge new tax for you, stating that the rebuild is “over the top” and “nuts”. This is the same group of individuals who campaigned to defeat District 93’s new high school and the creation of a community college in eastern Idaho.

The goal of this bond is to IMPROVE INSTRUCTION AND INCREASE COMPETITIVENESS. First consider the age of District 91’s high schools. Idaho Falls High School was opened in 1952, Skyline in 1968. Many things in the world have drastically changed – including instructional best practices and increased educational mandates. Some of these changes include: Title IX (requiring equal opportunity for girls to participate in extra-curricular activities), special education services, mandatory hot lunch programs and bussing. The biggest and most drastic change is our increasing utilization and dependency on technology. Technology is now a tool for learning that was unimaginable even 20 year ago. Nearly every aspect of the school day is dependent on technology: attendance, grade reporting, curriculum, communication (internal and parent), and most importantly INSTRUCTION. The current IFHS was sufficient for the era in which it was designed, a factory school model with thick walls in the cold-war era. With a new IFHS and a remodel at Skyline High School all the important aspects of a 21st century education can be represented: instruction (on-line, blended, project based, expeditionary, etc.), collaboration, physical activity, and the arts. Consider the age of the surrounding high schools: Bonneville High School in 1978, Hillcrest High School in 1992, Rigby High School in 2013, Thunder Ridge High School in 2018. We are striving to improve the competitiveness and desirability of our schools by pursuing this bond. Curb appeal matters when prospective businesses are exploring relocation. It matters when families are relocating and choosing where they will purchase a home. Learning environment matters as our teachers are preparing our kids for the future. It matters when the district is trying to attract and retain teachers. The condition of the district’s facilities communicates the value our community places on education and impacts the value of property within the school district.

The group D91 Taxpayer’s have spread misinformation that the construction manager/general contractor and architect were selected with a no-bid process. Contrary to the claims, early in the process District 91 asked contractors and architects to respond to a Request for Qualifications, (RFQ) both for the new construction and the redesign. These RFQ’s were publicized according to Idaho law, and the following contractors and architects responded.

Construction Manager/General Contractor submittals:

  • Ormond
  • Hughes
  • Bateman-Hall
  • McAlvain
  • Headwaters

Architect submittals:

  • Design West – Logan
  • Hummel / Alderson Karst & Mitro (AKM)
  • Vital Ink Architecture
  • GPC Architects
  • NBW
  • CRSA
  • Method Studio

After in-depth committee review and interviews, Bateman-Hall and Hummel/AKM were selected. As is standard practice in the selection of professional services, these firms signed contracts following a rigorous selection process and fee negotiations. Once the bond passes, all work must be awarded through a competitive bid process. Bateman Hall will create bid packages that bundle similar work. For example: concrete, steel, electrical, mechanical work, flooring, windows, paint, etc. The subcontractors submit their bids and the district is required by law to accept the lowest bid. If bids come in higher than the budget allows, design specifications can be modified and the package rebid. Choosing the Construction Manager At-Risk method has three advantages over the Design, Bid, Build method. First, the competitive selection process enables the district to choose a local CM/GC firm. Second, the construction manager works collaboratively in the design phase with the architect so that building/material costs are taken into consideration in the design. This allows the district to keep the design within budget constraints. Third, the CM/GC provides a guaranteed maximum price that will prevent cost overruns. Using the construction manager model with our last projects, we were able to complete the buildings on time with a savings of over $2,000,000.00.

The group D91 Taxpayers claims that the district is misrepresenting the tax implications on voters and state that we are using accounting tricks to hide the amount of taxes you will pay with this rebuild.

They are quick to compare us with the 17 million dollar remodels done in Snake River School District. They have 2,000 students, we have over 10,000. Interestingly, Snake River’s levy rate is 6.95/$1000. Ours will remain at 4.24/$1000. (All of the financial information about the tax levy rate is available on the District 91 webpage.)

The financial experts from Piper Jaffray projected growth necessary for a flat tax rate using the past 20 year compounded growth rate (4.29% – which includes the 3 negative years in the great recession), utilized information from the tax assessor’s office and planning & zoning. Growth was projected at 6% in fiscal year 2018 (tax year 2017, this number is now actual rather than projected), 5% in years 2019-2020, 2.5% growth in years 2021-2029 and ZERO growth for years 2030 and after. We know our tax base is growing. Current construction projects, building permits and approved housing developments support these assumptions. “D91 Taxpayers” present a 20 year zero-growth scenario using inaccurate data and flawed calculation methodology. Regardless of whether this bond passes, the school district has the ability to collect taxes at the current rate in order to pay off our current bonds early. As a community, if we decide to no longer reinvest in our schools, eventually the tax rate will drop. The school board is asking permission from voters to extend the time on the current tax rate and modernize both of our comprehensive high schools.

We welcome any questions and would be happy to arrange tours of either school. Unlike many in the opposition, we actually live in District 91 and our kids attend(ed) schools in the district. Please join us in our effort to Build UP District 91 and make our schools competitive and a positive draw to our area.