SD2 has 6 months to secure bond money

2010-09-27T21:41:00Z SD2 has 6 months to secure bond moneyROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
September 27, 2010 9:41 pm  • 

Billings School District 2 will have the next six months to secure the first $1.2 million of the $12 million in federal bonds recently approved by voters.

In its first meeting since the two bonds passed on Sept. 7, the Billings School District 2 board met Monday night and heard reports from the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s bond campaign committee and from its financial services company, D.A. Davidson & Co.

Bridget Ekstrom, vice president of D.A. Davidson advised the board to sell the first issue of bonds sooner rather than later.

“We think bond conditions currently in the marketplace are favorable for the district,” she said.

The district could, by selling them in the next few months, lock in with a 5 percent interest rate, she said.

Bruce MacIntyre, director of government affairs for the Billings Chamber of Commerce and its liaison to the school district, headed up the Renovate to Educate committee, which campaigned for the bonds and told trustees that he couldn’t have been more pleased with the election results.

“This was an interesting campaign,” he said. It was “low-budget, almost no-budget.”

Still, the bonds passed with 62 percent of the vote, he said.

“That’s unheard of,” he said. “We think it’s a trend — we plan to go forward passing mill levies and bonds.”

Also at the meeting, Karen Palmer, technology director for the district, presented SD2’s plan for implementing new technology in its three high schools and Career Center with May’s passage of the $1.1 million technology levy.

“Every purchase we are making directly impacts the students one way or another,” she said.

The $1.1 million breaks down to $134.67 for each high-schooler in the district — $230,691 for Senior High, $206,585 for Skyview High and $258,837 for West High. The Career Center will receive $107,602, and the district office will receive $296,283.

With it, the high schools and Career Center will purchase everything from new computers and laptops to graphing calculators and digital microscopes. Many classrooms will get interactive whiteboards and an instant response system — remote devices that each student in a classroom holds and uses to answer questions posed by the teacher, giving instant feedback.

The district will spend $42,000 to increase its bandwidth and hire new technicians — one full-time and two part-time at a combined cost of $151,167 — to help implement and run the new networks and maintain the new equipment.

“What you’re seeing now is our attempt to bring each school to a similar level (of technology),” Palmer said. “To level the playing field.”

The district’s goal over the next four years is to create 21st-century classrooms, she said.

At the start of the meeting, Greta Besch Moen was sworn in as the newest member of the board. Moen was appointed to take the place of Trustee Mary Jo Fox, who stepped down from the board on Sept. 1.

Fox resigned after moving away from the area she represents in the Heights.

Moen “comes to this board very committed and with experience,” said Trustee Kathy Aragon.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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