by Lockwood School District Superintendent Tobin Novasio.
Later this month Lockwood residents will receive mail ballots for the high school expansion vote. I wanted to take this opportunity to educate our voters regarding what this vote is for.
Just the ability for you, our taxpayers, to vote on this issue represents a victory for local control in our state. Back in 1993, the legislature decided that there were enough communities with high schools in our state and put a moratorium on new high school districts. If you didn’t have a high school in 1993, you were not allowed to even consider having one until almost 25 years later following a statewide effort to finally get this law changed during the last legislative session. This change allows this vote to happen.
There has been discussion regarding the need for a high school in Lockwood dating back to the 1980s, however due to the high school moratorium, all these discussions were theoretical for the past few decades. That has changed now and the purpose of this vote is to find out from our constituents if this is something that our community is truly interested in pursuing.
The results of this vote in November will let us as a school district know if our community wants us to move forward considering a high school or not. A yes vote begins the process of community listening sessions to find out what your priorities for a possible high school are. We would work with architects and engineers to design a facility based on what we hear at these sessions. A no vote means that the possibility cannot be reconsidered for at least five years.
If the community gives us the go ahead to begin researching expansion in November, it opens a two year window for the process. There is no change to where our students attend school or where your tax dollars go from this vote. As a district and a community, we would go through this planning process and present a final proposal to our voters for approval by November of 2019. This recommendation will include the cost of the facility. If we do not pass a bond to build the new school by the time this two-year window closes, then the five-year waiting period again applies.
There is no tax impact attached to the current vote, it simply gives us the go ahead to start the two-year planning window and bring a proposal back to you the tax-payers for another vote.
In terms of long-term fiscal impact, other than the cost of building the facility, the tax impact should be a wash for Lockwood taxpayers. About 9% of your current tax bill (not including sewer) goes to operate the Billings high schools; this funding would stay in our community to operate Lockwood HS.
I believe based on current projections that there will be a new high school built in the Billings area in the next decade. SD2 just finished opening two new middle schools and their projections released in December of 2016 predict 878 additional students by the time current 6th graders will graduate at the end of the 2023-24 school year. The reality is we are going to have to pay for a high school in our area; the question is do we want this high school to be in Lockwood?
If you would like more information there will be informational session on the expansion vote and please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have on this topic. As always, thank you for the opportunity to work with your children. Go Lions!
Due to time restraints, this article did no make it in the Yellowstone County News. Therefore, it is being released on the lockwoodmontana.com community website.