The Butte School District Board of Trustees Monday unanimously passed a $35 million bond resolution for the upcoming November election.
If voters approve the $35 million bond the funds will be used to renovate East Middle School and improve security across the districts’ elementary schools.
Dennis Clague, Butte School District No. 1's director of business affairs, presented the bond resolution at a special board meeting last month.
“This needs to get done,” said Clague. “There haven’t been significant renovations done to the interior (of East Middle School) in 60 years. Unfortunately security of buildings is becoming more and more imperative for schools to address. It’s a good time to make these improvements.”
The preliminary remodel of East Middle School includes a redesigned entrance that will increase visibility and security, redesigned spaces for classrooms and a new gymnasium to include a weight room and locker rooms. The new entrance would include a series of doors with a variety of safety functions for fires and lockdowns. The bond language specifies that funding may also be used for refurbishing the auditorium, music and choir areas.
Security improvements at Butte’s six public elementary schools will be addressed by the individual needs of each school. The district’s leadership team is proposing improvements to school entrances to increase visibility as well as technological updates to existing safety equipment.
Originally, the bond leadership team planned to ask taxpayers for $37.5 million. After the board heard a number of complaints about the amount, it decided to reduce it by $500,000 and contribute $2 million from the district, leaving $35 million for taxpayers to cover.
“It shows voters we’re looking at all alternatives to fund this project,” said school board trustee J.P. Gallagher.
Tax estimates for the decreased bond amount have not been released yet.
Upgrades to the play and sports fields at East Middle School have been written out of the bond language in order to decrease the bond’s price tag. Clague estimates those renovations would cost $500,000 and “some change.” Although these upgrades have been written out of the bond, the district is still hoping to fund this part of the project outside of the bond.
“We weren’t a hundred percent sure that they (school board) wanted to get rid of the sports fields upgrades altogether. I believe those are things we’re going to still look at but the district will have to pay for them,” said Clague.
That could mean the district's share of the project would be $2.5 million. The board has not specified a funding plan for that portion.
The district's leadership team partnered with Montana-based SMA Architects. The firm previously designed the remodel of Butte High School’s auditorium and designed a new elementary school in Helena, among other projects.
According to board members, this is the first infrastructure bond issue the board has approved since 1989.
Prior to the bond proposal, the district applied for grants and dipped into its general fund in order to pay for necessary renovations. According to district leaders, the process was slow and would have taken too long to make necessary renovations across the district.
“I don’t know how much longer we can go without renovating our facilities,” said Butte Public School District superintendent Judy Jonart.