It’s decision time again.
On Tuesday, county election officials expect to mail more than 10,000 ballots to voters in the Belgrade School District so electors can decide whether they will support a trio of funding measures, including a $12.4 million bond issue for a new elementary school.
The ballots will be due back in the county elections office by March 1, Gallatin County election administrator Charlotte Mills said.
In addition to the question of the new school, voters are asked to decide on a pair of building reserve mill levies — one for the high school and the other for the elementary school district, Superintendent Candy Lubansky has said.
The high school building reserve levy would raise $150,000 per year; the elementary reserve would raise $350,000.
The building reserve funds are necessary because the district is currently spending $500,000 per year from the general fund to pay for repairs and maintenance, District Clerk Jay Bates said.
School officials also want to construct a 58,000-square foot elementary school to accommodate rising enrollments and a full-time kindergarten program, Lubansky said. The plans call for a 24-classroom building with a gymnasium and lunchroom on school-owned property north of Belgrade Middle School.
Belgrade elementary schools are currently exceeding state standards for student-teacher ratios in several classrooms. District estimates show the birth rates in the area have been on the rise for the last five years and will likely compound the problem as those kids enter school.
A new school would allow the district to operate a full-day kindergarten program, Lubansky said. Elementary principals have said parents are clamoring for such a program, but the district cannot accommodate it due to space issues.
District officials 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.
Lubansky also said the district already owns the land where the proposed school would be built, which also brings down construction costs.
The total of all three funding measures is $12.96 million. Voters can approve all three, but the measures also can pass or fail independently of the others, district officials have 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.
The other consideration, she said, is that taxes for most homeowners won’t go up by the amounts listed above because the district will pay off previous building debt this year. That means the amount the district actually needs from taxpayers is nine mills, or $318,000, less than the full $12.96 million, Lubansky said. The total net millage is 31.63 mills.
Each mill in the Belgrade elementary district is worth $35,266.