SD2 board and city council discuss levies and pedestrian safety

2014-02-27T17:47:00Z 2014-02-27T23:50:19Z SD2 board and city council discuss levies and pedestrian safetyBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

City and school leaders are looking at ways to make it safer for pedestrians to walk to downtown and midtown schools.

During their Thursday meeting, the School District 2 board and City Council — which meet once a quarter — talked about making school zones safer and more appealing to those on bikes and on foot.

They also talked about when is the best time to run levies and the infrastructure needs for the district’s two new middle schools, which will be built over the next three years.

Addressing the safety of students and parents walking to school, Lew Anderson talked about watching drivers speed down residential streets in the morning. Most distressing was watching a driver use both hands to eat breakfast while he drove down Colton Boulevard.

“I have real concerns about Colton,” said Anderson, SD2’s director of bond projects and past facilities director.

Over the last few years, just on Colton, the district has installed three of the high-visibility yellow-green pedestrian warning signs.

“It doesn’t seem to help,” he said.

The main stretch of Colton runs from Rehberg Road to 17th Street West. Many students cross the road at its intersection with 24th Street West as they make their way up to Poly Drive Elementary.

“It’s definitely a concern, there’s no question,” said Billings Mayor Tom Hanel.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John was also at the meeting and said that when possible, he’d increase patrols on the road.

As a long-term solution, the council may reduce the speed on Colton from 35 mph to 25 and make a portion of it a school zone. They’ll take up the issue at a future council meeting.

From there, talk turned to the city’s desire to run a public safety levy in November. SD2 trustees have talked about running a general fund mill levy this spring, although the possibility seems remote.

Under the state’s funding model, school districts receive 80 percent of their funding from the state. The last 20 percent has to be raised every year through local mill levies.

“I would ask that maybe you defer,” Hanel said.

The city held off on running a levy last year so that the district could pursue its mill levy and technology levy last spring and its construction bond in November.

SD2 said it would return the favor.

“I think (voters) would get upset with us for asking again,” said Trustee Teresa Stroebe. “It’s not the right time.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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