A $5.75 million bond to raise money for Montana City School will be on the ballot in Jefferson County on Election Day.
The bond would pay for expanding and improving the school’s existing campus, buying of land adjacent the school, adding to sports facilities and paying off debt incurred paying to repair the school’s septic system.
If the measure is approved, the school board would be authorized to sell bonds totaling no more than $5,750,000 at interest rates to be approved by the school board. Interest would be paid semiannually over no more than 20 years.
“Asking the community to support a bond or building reserve levy is the only option a school has to invest in its facilities and make substantial capital improvements,” said Tony Kloker, Montana City School superintendent.
The school is at capacity with 440 students and has consistently added about 10 students a year over the last few decades, said Kloker. More space and improved facilities are needed to accommodate expected growth in the district and to meet the school’s top priority of offering quality education to students, he said.
The bond money would go towards the addition of eight classrooms, paying off the remaining $56,000 of $130,000 spent to repair the school’s drainage field and septic tank, the purchase of two pieces of land — totaling about 5 acres — next to the school campus and the addition of a paved track and grass area for soccer, baseball, football and other uses.
Some residents have disagreed with the need for the bond, suggesting instead that the district remove out-of-district students, sell a 60-acre property the district owns or consolidate with a neighboring school district.
The removal of the school’s 53 out-of-district students would actually hurt the district, Kloker said. The school receives $301,000 of budget authority money for the 53 out-of-district students enrolled at the school, he said.
Without those students, the school would lose the $301,000, which would require program cuts, Kloker said. And because the out-of-district students are spread out over multiple grades, they have minimal impact on the number of classrooms and teachers needed at the school.
Others have suggested that a 57.5-acre piece of land the district owns be sold off to raise money for improvements.
But Kloker says that local Realtors have appraised the land from $180,000 to $750,000. Selling the land would be a short-term fix that would cost the district property it will need to keep up with future growth, he said. And selling that land and could force a future school board to ask taxpayers for many more millions of dollars than if the district holds on to the property, he said.
Research by the school board showed that building and operating another school on that property could cost as much as $14 million, making improvements to the school’s existing campus far more financially feasible. Kloker said.
“This is a buyer’s market, not a seller’s” Kloker said.
Consolidation with another school district is another suggestion from some community members.
Kloker said that option is never off the table, but that right now there isn’t a “win-win” consolidation scenario for Montana City School and any neighboring districts.
If the bond is passed, Kloker said he expects the proposed additions and improvements to the school to be completed within two years.