Despite the savings associated with leaving Helena Public Schools, East Helena property owners will have to pay higher property taxes for the next 20 years if they vote to build their own high school.
On May 8, East Helena voters will decide whether to approve a $29.5 million bond to construct a high school there. A series of community meetings will be held in the next couple of months to make sure voters have an idea of what the school will look like and have an opportunity to provide feedback and ideas.
The school district's Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said a taxpayer with a home valued at $200,000 would pay $34.21 per month over a 20-year bond for the construction of the high school. The decision to pay that cost is up to the voters through the mail ballot election in May.
In addition to the bond, taxpayers are also responsible for paying to operate the school, which includes costs such as utilities. Whitmoyer said the district plans to keep the operational costs at a level that does not require voter approval under state law.
Currently, an East Helena homeowner with a home valued at $200,000 is paying approximately $19 a month to operate the high schools in Helena. If the voters approve a high school in East Helena, that cost will go away. It will be replaced with a tax to operate the high school in East Helena, which is estimated to cost taxpayers $15 a month.
The state law that allows East Helena to expand to a high school district requires a gradual transition from the larger district in Helena to the smaller district in East Helena. Only one grade at a time would move to the new high school, which means some students from East Helena would remain in Helena schools even after the East Helena high school opens.
East Helena would be responsible for paying tuition and transportation costs to the Helena school district for those students until all four grades move to the new school. The operations tax would be used for those purposes until the East Helena high school is at full operation.