Lolo School District is taking another swing at trying to pass a $10.5 million bond to build a new K-4 school.
Voters defeated the request last October by a 43-vote margin.
Disappointed by the outcome, the school board and its administrators regrouped after the election and hosted a series of community input sessions.
From those events, voters clarified their concerns, others explained their objections to the bond, many offered solutions, and in the end superintendent Mike Magone heard from the community that the issue should go to a vote yet again.
Ballots for the bond will be sent out Feb. 20 and voters have until March 12 to cast their decision.
Like last time, the bond will provide for a full K-4 school on a 20-acre parcel on Farm Lane, and include a gym, library and expanded food service.
But this time, because of community input, the site of the school will be farther east and a bit north on the property, Magone said.
The reason for the site adjustment is for the building to be closer to Farm Lane and therefore reduce some construction costs by reducing the distance to utility connections and for driveway builders.
“The new plan is also more sensitive to the folks who live on the south side of the 20 acres, and this way there is more space between the residents and school,” Magone said.
Despite the cost savings adjustments to the new plan, the bond requests remains
“Because the project has been delayed a year, we have inflationary costs to deal with,” Magone said. “Essentially, the savings we have had to come up with will be going towards the inflationary increases.”
The updated estimated tax impact of the new plan also means a slightly smaller burden on taxpayers than the previous bond request.
Prior bond issue estimated tax impact on $100,000 home was about $132/year; new bond issue estimated tax impact estimate is about $125/year. On a $200,000 home, prior bond issue impact was about $263/year and new bond issue impact would be about $251/year.
Even if voters defeat this second bond attempt, the district’s severe overcrowding issues and safety concerns related to being on a hill and so close to U.S. Highway 93 will remain, Magone said.
The district currently has 600-plus enrolled students who are crammed into a school that was last remodeled in the 1950s.
Not only is space an issue – and the district estimates another 100 students will enroll within the decade – the buildings are not wired for modern technology, nor are they adequate for special education needs.
Because of cramped quarters, staff, volunteers and students are working in storage closets due to lack of space. Students also have only 8 to 10 minutes of seat time in the cafeteria for lunch each day before they need to clear the way for other students who need to eat.
Magone is hopeful that the bond will pass this time around, especially given the fact that so many community members helped revise the plan and encouraged the district to take the issue to voters again.
“It was such a close vote, and we thought it was fair to put it out there again,” Magone said.
In October, 60 percent of all ballots mailed out were returned with a
“We really appreciate everyone’s input on this new plan,” Magone said. “And we hope to see as a good a turnout as the last election.”