Voters in the Belgrade School District on Tuesday approved a trio of funding measures for the Belgrade School District, including a $12.4 million bond issue for a new elementary school, election officials said.
With 5,069 ballots cast in the mail-ballot election, voters gave the green light to the new elementary school by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent, according to the Gallatin County elections office, which ran the election for the school district. The measure passed with 2,825 yes votes to 2,093 no votes.
An annual building reserve levy for the elementary district also passed, 2,575 to 2,312. It will enable the district to sock away $350,000 per year for a decade to fix and maintain elementary school buildings.
A companion building reserve for the high school garnered approval as well, with 2,613 in favor and 2,417 against. That levy will raise $150,000 per year for a decade to fix and repair the high school.
The two mill levies will enable the district to make repairs to its six buildings without tapping into the general fund, which it has been doing all these years, to the tune of about a half-million dollars a year, Lubansky said.
The new school building will enable the district to offer all-day, every-day kindergarten, a program it can’t now host due to a lack of space, she said. And, the new building will provide space to spread out existing classrooms, many of which are overcrowded to the point that they exceed state accreditation mandates.
Lubansky said the district wants to open the new elementary school for the 2012-13 school year — two years from now. A preliminary design for the new building has been done, but groundbreaking won’t happen until the money is in the bank, she said.
The district doesn’t want to borrow money against the bonds that voters approved Tuesday, and the tax hike to pay for the bond issue won’t show up on the tax rolls until November.
“We don’t want to (borrow),” she said. “We want to wait until the money is coming in” from the bond sale.
Lubansky said the passage of the funding measures is good news for the shools, and the community at large, for several reasons. For one thing, it enables the district to tap into more than $2 million from a federal stimulus program that will be effectively tacked onto the bonds to help pay them down faster.
And voters also will see the tax bite become somewhat smaller because other bonds, sold 20 years ago, will be paid off this year, she said. In fact, bonds are scheduled to be paid off “every five years” for the foreseeable future.
The new elementary school also gives Belgrade Schools the opportunity to tap into about $400,000 in additional state funding for the all-day kindergarten program. Coupled with the $500,000 saved in the general fund from the passage of the building reserve levies, that money will “give us some resources to really get after that class-size problem,” she said.