Belgrade Schools to run spring bond election

Voters asked to OK new elementary school, maintenance funds

The Belgrade School District will go to the voters next spring seeking approval to build a new elementary school and to create building reserve funds for the elementary and high school districts.

The board of trustees met in special session Monday morning and voted unanimously on all three questions, Superintendent Candy Lubansky said.

Under the plan, the district likely will hold a mail-ballot election in February, asking voters to answer each request separately, she said. That way, if voters say no to one request, the others can still go forward.

The ballot will have three parts. The voters will separately be asked to tax themselves to build a new elementary school, expected to cost $12.4 million; and to fund a high school building reserve of $150,000; and to fund an elementary district building reserve of $350,000. Total: $12.96 million.

However, because the district will pay off debt on other projects this year, the amount the district actually needs from taxpayers is nine mills, or $318,000, less than that, Lubansky said. The total net millage is 31.63 mills. Each mill in the Belgrade elementary district is worth $35,266.

The cost to individual taxpayers is a fraction of that, Lubansky said.

If all three requests are approved, the additional taxes on a home with a taxable value of $100,000 will be $50.07 per year, or $4.17 per month, Lubansky said. Those amounts will double as taxable value doubles, so a home with a taxable value of $200,000 will cost $100.14 per year, or $8.34 per month.

“People may be confused about the difference between taxable value and market value,” she said.

Market value is what the home could sell for; taxable value is the amount it is assessed at by the state for tax purposes. Taxable value is often much lower than market value.

The building reserve mill levies are sought because Belgrade is one of the only school districts in the state without one, and because the district spends somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 per year on building maintenance — all paid from the general fund, Lubansky said.

The new school is needed because elementary enrollment continues to grow beyond projections and classrooms in the three existing elementary schools are over capacity, she said.

A new elementary school, which will be built on land the district already owns just north of Belgrade Middle School, will be able to house 450 to 475 students, Lubansky said. It will also give the district the ability to offer all-day, every-day kindergarten.

Currently, kindergarten is available part time because there isn’t space to expand the program.

The 58,000-square-foot building is estimated to cost $170 per square foot to build, for a total of $9.945,000. Another $1 million will be spent to move the ball fields where the school will be built. Furnishings and inspections will cost $1.3 million; and fees, permits and reviews are expected to cost $162,000.

The building is not yet designed, but that process will start now that trustees have approved the bond issue idea, Lubansky said. The district will work with Comma Q Architecture. The public will be notified of and invited to attend all meetings associated with the process.

The vote must occur by March 1 if the district is to qualify for $2.1 million in interest-free federal bonds, made possible by the stimulus program, she said. Belgrade stands to benefit from the same program under which the Monforton School District recently received similar funding to expand and update their building.

Over the next couple of months, Lubansky said, the district will be working hard to sell the idea to the voters.

“The next step is that the facilities committee starts planning the communication with the community and developing a series of indicators of why we are seeking these (bonds),” she said. “We expect to be going to the community and saying ‘This is what we need and why’ — just communicating, communicating, communicating and hearing our community. We need to share our compelling reasoning.”