IDAHO FALLS — Idaho Falls will officially be getting a community college in September.
On Tuesday, voters approved a taxing district to create the College of Eastern Idaho with a 71.42 percent supermajority vote.
the taxing district will allow for Eastern Idaho Technical College to be transferred in the College of Eastern Idaho.
Steven Taggart, spokesman for Citizens for Affordable Higher Education said he is excited the community approved the college.
“We’re just thrilled that the community embraced creating the College of Eastern Idaho. It was a broad win, it was a big win, and the next step is we will have a new college in September,” Taggart said.
Andi Elliot chairwoman of the IdaHope PAC (Political Action Committee) was against the community college district. She released a statement on behalf of the committee after the election results.
“While we strongly opposed the wording of the ballot question we do congratulate those on the other side that worked hard to pass this measure. We encourage everyone to work together in keeping the new tax increase to the promised $13 a year,” Elliot said.
The taxing district would secure funding for the community college. The average homeowner in Bonneville County will be taxed $13.37 annually. There wouldn’t be a need to fund new infrastructure because of the existing buildings at EITC, and $5 million dollars that were allocated by the Idaho State Legislature for startup costs.
In January, the Idaho Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution for the college district to be on the ballot. Prior to that a petition in favor of the taxing district was certified by the Bonneville County Elections Office.
In April, some Bonneville County Republicans were urging voters to stand against the formation of this district. Larry Lyon with the IdaHope PAC referred to the taxing district as another entity to take away property owners money by force.
Lyon said the Bonneville County Republican group is opposed to having more taxes that could potentially be a burden on locals. He said people who signed a petition months ago to move the proposal of the district forward may not have known what they were signing. He said it could be possible for the community college to be pushing other agendas in addition to education.
Conversely, local Democrats passed a resolution to support the community college. The Bonneville County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Miranda Marquit said the resolution wasn’t intended as a response to the Republicans’ resolution. She said it seemed like the thing to do to stake out their position and show their official commitment in support of a community college.
“The more education a population has, the healthier it is, the more likely you are to make more money, so it kind of gets you away from needing the government programs,” Marquit said in an April 19 report. “There’s been research done that indicates that a more educated populace is more involved in local government(and) local community organizations.”
The resolution referenced the Community College Study Panel Report, which stated “nearly $66 million in additional economic activity would result from operation of the school and student spending. A full return on investment would occur after nine years.”
Marquit told EastIdahoNews.com Tuesday that the approval on the college is a positive step for the community.
“It’s very exciting to see Idaho falls and Bonneville County ready to make this investment in our community and our future,” Marquit said.
Stuart Summers Associate Vice President at Idaho State University released a statement after the election as well.
“Idaho State University acknowledges the importance of postsecondary education in Idaho Falls, and we look forward to closely collaborating with the new community college to jointly advance higher education opportunities. ISU will continue to serve the community of Idaho Falls through our existing campus and the future polytechnic institute,” Summers said.
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com
Josh Friesen, Idaho State Journal