Lolo school officials weigh options after voters reject bond issue


Lolo school officials weigh options after voters reject bond issue

MISSOULA, Mont. - Lolo School officials are weighing how to move forward on addressing what they say are pressing needs at the current Lolo School facility after voters rejected their latest attempt at a bond issue.

An unofficial count from Missoula County elections officials totals ‘yes' votes at 919, and ‘no' votes at 948 on the issue.

"(I am) definitely disappointed. We're trying to recoup, I guess, this morning and figure out what our next steps might be," said Lolo Schools Superintendent Mike Magone.

A similar bond issue failed in October.

School officials say the latest bond issue would have had slightly less impact on taxpayers, but would still cost $10.5 million over 20 years.

Lolo Schools operates two schools at the current location -- a K-4 elementary school and 5-8 middle school. A passed bond would have meant the migration of K-4 operations to a new building at a location on Farm Lane, as well as changes to the existing facility.

Now Magone says school officials will look at ways to tackle the current pressing problems at the lower facility of Lolo Schools. Magone says those problems include an outdated boiler, unreliable heating system, lack of fire prevention sprinklers and lack of egress windows.

Options include applying for grants, or possibly cutting something from the school's budget, though talks so far have been informal.

"At this point in time, the bond issue was our best approach to address all of the concerns in the most fiscally reasonable fashion," said Magone.

Businessman Frank Miller, who opposed the bond measure, says he would support fixing issues like the ones described by Magone.

"Yes, I would support that 100 percent. I think that we either have to fix the school we have or get it on the line to build one school, one location with competitive bids," said Miller.

Miller opposed the bond issue largely because he didn't want a duplication of services by splitting the current facility into two separate school locations. He would support a new school if it served the entire student population.

"I'm glad it didn't pass. I still look for a new school in Lolo but I hope that we can put it all together one time. If not, let's fix the old school and get on with our lives," said Miller. 

So far, it is too early to tell if school officials will try a third attempt at a bond issue.

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