SD2 bond projects will probably begin this fall

2012-05-09T22:00:00Z 2014-08-25T10:34:12Z SD2 bond projects will probably begin this fallBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

School District 2 has $14 million burning a hole in its pocket.

"We have major projects," said Jack Copps, the district's interim superintendent.

Voters approved the bonds by a solid margin Tuesday night. The district over the next three years will replace the boilers and windows at West High and update the school's roof. They also will replace roofs, bathrooms, fire alarms and windows at another six schools.

The mill levies the district placed on the ballot weren't so lucky. Voters rejected all five of them.

The first bond projects will probably begin this fall, said Lew Anderson, SD2 facilities director.

The district will have access to the bond money as early as mid-July, he said. And, under the terms of the bonds, the district will have three years to complete the projects it listed.

Part of what made the bonds so appealing to voters is that they're subsidized by the federal government. It's the second time in two years that SD2 has qualified.

Known as Qualified Zone Academy and Qualified Energy Conservation bonds, they're worth $14 million and reserved specifically for maintenance and energy conservation projects, similar to the federal bonds voters passed in 2010. The two bonds will cost of owners of a $200,000 house about $11.42 more a year.

Two years ago, the district received $12 million in federal bonds, but it cost Billings taxpayers $5.8 million. Those projects have to be completed by 2013.

Similarly, the $14 million in bonds passed Monday will cost Billings taxpayers $8.5 million.

The 2010 bond projects are still being carried out by the district, including updates to the boilers, roof and windows at Senior High, and the replacement of roofs and windows across the district.

That has slowly knocked down the deferred maintenance in the district to about $110 million, Anderson said. It had been at about $122 million. 

These new bonds will "put a significant dent in our deferred maintenance," Copps said.

Aside from the updates, the bond projects will also save the district money in terms of energy costs. With upgrades to heating systems, windows and roofs, the school buildings will be exponentially more energy efficient, cutting down on SD2's power bills, Anderson said.

For example, he said, West High's boilers -- built in 1958 -- run at about 60 percent efficiency. New boilers would run 94 percent efficient.

"There is a reason to celebrate," Copps said.

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