An unofficial count from Missoula County elections officials totals ‘yes’ votes at 919, and ‘no’ votes at 948 for the Lolo school bond issue.
Elections officials tell NBC Montana that all ballots are counted, but these are unofficial final results until a canvass is performed by the school board next week.
A similar bond issue failed in October. It lost by 43 votes, after nearly 1,800 residents cast their vote. School officials then held multiple community input sessions and board meetings to generate plans for another bond issue vote.
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.
The first bond issue would have put an estimated tax impact of $132 on a home worth $100,000, but that number was brought down to an estimated $125 dollars in the current bond issue. For a $200,000 home, the estimated impact was brought down from $263 a year to $251.
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. There would also be small changes to the existing campus to create more space for those students.
School officials argued that it would be cheaper to build at the new location than to do major remodels at the existing location.
Some opponents argued that the community could not afford the tax burden of another bond issue, and others argued that they wouldn’t want to see a duplication of services by splitting the operations into two different locations.
Supporters argued that kids would learn more efficiently with more space, and that there are many outdated aspects of the current location, like lack of wheelchair accessibility in some areas.