Lolo school leaders will spend the next week or two brainstorming on what to do after a $10.5 million bond levy defeat.
In a mail-in ballot election, voters narrowly defeated a plan to build a kindergarten through 4th grade elementary school east of town. Fifth through 8th grade kids would remain at the old site on the west side.
The final tally in the high turnout election was 824 for building the new school, and 867 against it.
Passage of the bond would have given the 615 kids who attend Lolo Elementary more elbow room. There would be a new school in a field east of town.
Superintendent Mike Magone said the old school is deteriorating, overcrowded and worn out. He worries about security and safety. It will only get worse, he said.
After last night's 'no' vote, said Magone, "We'll need to roll up our sleeves and figure out a different approach."
Julie Zimmerman owns a floral and gift shop in Lolo. A new school would have meant a hike in her property taxes. That would be OK, she said.
"I think it was an expensive project," she said. "But I think it would have been good for the community."
The florist thinks it would have been good for her business too.
The new school would have cost a homeowner with a $200,000 house about $250 a year, and for somebody with a $100,000 house about $125 a year.
Independent businessman Tony Duffy voted 'no.' He figures the school would cost him $200 to $300 more a year.
He is building a new shop that he has saved and planned for for a long time. He said every dollar counts. He said he could never afford health insurance.
"And now I'm mandated by law," said Duffy, "to get it and I can't afford both more taxes and health insurance."
Duffy said he might have said yes if the district sold the existing school and used that money to build an entire kindergarten through 8th grade school.
If kindergarten through 4th grade classrooms were built at the proposed location east of town, there would be room to expand the rest of the elementary grades in the future.
Homeowner Lloyd Gillin voted 'yes.' But he thinks the district should build a kindergarten through 8th grade school.
"Let's do it all at once," said Gillin.
The Lolo school board will meet next week. It's expected board members will meet next week on the bond issue and try to figure out what to do next.
Superintendent Magone welcomes input from the public.