Belgrade Superintendent of Schools Candy Lubansky stood before the Belgrade City Council Monday to pitch the members on the district’s attempt to pass three funding measures.
Election ballots will go out today to voters in the Belgrade school District, asking them to support two building reserve levies and for $12.4 million to build a new elementary school on school-owned ground behind Belgrade Middle School.
Currently, all building maintenance needs are paid from the general fund and some projects are put on the back burner due to lack of funds, according to district records. The building levies would free up the general fund to allow for additional teachers.
Numerous grade levels in all of the schools are over state-mandated limits, Lubansky said.
At the moment, the district does not have enough funds to hire new teachers to remedy the problem without the passage of a building levy, Lubansky said.
The high school building reserve levy would raise $150,000 per year while the elementary reserve measure would raise $350,000.
A new grade school would allow the district to offer all-day, every-day kindergarten and would generate almost $500,000 in new money from the state, Lubansky said.
Councilman Mark Criner said many of his neighbors associated kindergarten with day care and wondered why the program is necessary.
Kindergarten, Lubansky said, sets the foundation for future learning and studies indicate students who do not master base skills by the third grade will face future struggles in school and life in general.
“I used to teach high school and I understand your point,” Lubansky told Criner. “But kindergarten is absolutely the foundation to a student’s success.”
A new school would also handle future enrollment numbers, which have risen every year, Lubansky said. While the numbers have flattened the past two years likely due to the recession, new students continually registering.
The school is estimated to cost $12.4 million, according to district records.
District officials have said several factors favor the project. Belgrade is in line for a $2.1 million interest-free bond from the federal stimulus program, called Qualified School Construction bonds. The 15-year bond would allow officials to place tax revenue in an interest-bearing account to use toward the bond, saving money in the long run. The district is also retiring a bond this summer and construction costs have lowered since the recession.
The total funding for all three measures is $12.96 million and would cost $69.46 a year for a home with a taxable value of $100,000
For more information, visit the school website at Belgrade.k12.mt.us.