SD2 board meets to try again on facilities vote

2013-03-12T18:00:00Z 2013-04-04T09:46:21Z SD2 board meets to try again on facilities voteBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

School District 2 trustees will meet Wednesday night to vote again on plans to build new schools and update aging buildings.

The board originally met March 4 and voted 4-3 after a seven-hour meeting to build two new middle schools and an elementary school over the next few years.

The following day, Trustee Travis Kemp called board Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe and said, after thinking it through overnight, he wanted to change his vote.

Trustee Connie Wardell called Superintendent Terry Bouck later in the day and expressed a similar desire to change her vote.

Kemp and Wardell, along with Pam Ellis and Lindy Graves, had voted to implement a plan that would call for the construction of three new schools within the next few years as part of a $160.2 million bond.

However, that plan differed from the one recommended by district administration. Their 4-3 vote moved up the district's construction timeline to include the new elementary school in the first phase.

The original first-phase plan proposed by administrators and many of the consultants hired by the board, advocated for the construction of the two new middle schools first and then the construction of the new elementary school at a later time.

Trustees will now vote Wednesday night once more to decide whether they want the elementary school to be included in the first phase or the second phase of the plan. 

Bouck has cautioned trustees on the difficulties of opening three new schools in quick succession and recommends that the board place the construction of the new elementary school in the second phase.

Leo Hudetz, the district's chief financial officer, has told trustees that the district could afford to open and staff two new middle schools. Adding on an elementary school at roughly the same time would probably be unsustainable, he said.

Also on the agenda Wednesday night is a final vote on the technology levy for the elementary school district. SD2 has already placed a general fund mill levy on the May ballot. 

The general fund levy will be used exclusively to hire new teachers. District administrators, along with some trustees, believe the general fund levy should be the only levy on the ballot to help its chances of passing. 

However, Wardell and Ellis have expressed deep concerns about the lack of technology in the district available to elementary and middle school students. They want to see a tech levy on the ballot.

Business leaders and community organizers launched the Yes for Kids campaign on Tuesday to push for the passage of both levies. 

"We're ready to go with both because we know both are needed," said Jim Duncan, co-chairman of the Yes for Kids campaign. 

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