BLACKFOOT – Blackfoot School District Superintendent Brian Kress introduced a vision of growth for the district Thursday night. The kickoff was originally planned for a large public event, but because of the changes to public gatherings over the past two weeks with the constant hike of COVID-19 cases in the state, gatherings indoors were limited to 50 people so they livestreamed the event via Zoom.
Kress expressed how grateful he is for the career he has had with the Blackfoot School District and when he first started, the district patrons had just passed the bond for the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center. Fourteen years later he was announced as the new district superintendent of the district, facing a $1.6 million deficit and expectations to resolve the issues through ingenuity. It took him just four years to turn that deficit into a small surplus. Now, his administration has created a financial cushion of $855,000 and would like to break the $1 million bracket to ensure that the district can tackle any issue thrown in its direction. He asked that parents and patrons of the district take the faith they have in him and extend it to the people who have been forming the committee and their desire to see growth in the district. He then shifted gears to discuss the bonding matter at hand.
“We do not want to cause a tax increase,” Kress said as he began introducing the bond information. It would be this measure that Kress wanted to share with the people throughout the presentation. He then turned the time over to Cleon Chapman, former welding teacher at Blackfoot High School who sent one of his students to the Skills USA competition, to which he earned top honors and was sent to international competition in Russia. Ethan Harrison traveled to compete in Russia with the skills learned at BHS. Chapman said the Career Technical Education courses open doors to students who do not necessarily want to follow the "go on" mantra but also opens the door for continued learning and training for a portion of students who may have not found something they are passionate about.
The plan presented involves bonding for $23.9 million through a bond election that requires 66.7% of the voters to be in favor. Some of the new programs include paying for part of the amount of the bond based on local income levels to which Blackfoot qualifies for a 32% pay from the state according to financial advisor Christian Anderson of Zions Financial.
Other things to note are endowment funds available to the district, the Idaho School Bond Guarantee program, and the bond levy equalization program. These programs combined provide a safer bonding program that allows the state to fund some of the price as well as act as a cosigner on the bond to provide assurances that the funds would be paid even if it it meant the state paid it and the school paid the state.
The money and percentages behind bonds tend to be large hurdles that have to be overcome, but as the goal of the committee continued to be shared, there will not be an increase on people's taxes from where they are now to where they would be with a passing of the bond due to the retirement of the BPAC bond at the end of 2021 and the initial date of January 1, 2022, for the proposed bond.
The last factor focused on what the bond would be funding. The bond would build a new elementary school off of Walker Street near the current soccer complex and would turn I.T. Stoddard into an 18-classroom CTE center extension of the BHS campus and would also fund the building of an atrium commons area on the ground floor of the high school. This year alone, they had to turn 80 students away from the welding program. Doing the growth plan, the school would be able to incorporate more students in the current 11 programs at the school with plans of adding seven more programs assuming the bond passes.
The final speaker was Dr. Rick Hayman, who leads the College of Eastern Idaho in Idaho Falls. Hayman explained that as educators, they are in the line of work of changing people's lives and Eastern Idaho does not want to have to recruit from outside of the area to fulfill the need for trade skills. “We want our students to graduate, to have a degree, and work in an industry-recognized skill,” Hayman stated. “The college is committed to this region and we are committed to servicing this community”
Kress provided closing remarks to the kickoff, saying “The time is right. The time is right now.”
For more information, visit www.blackfootbond.org.