Big Horn County voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a $7.5 million bond issue to expand and improve crowded Hardin High School.
The bond issue passed 634-619 for Hardin High School District 1 to issue and sell the general-obligation bonds. Cyndy Maxwell, a Big Horn County elections administrator, said nearly 35 percent of the voters in the district - more than 1,250 of the 3,600 voters - submitted a ballot.
She credited the strong turnout to the county's decision to use mail-in ballots.
"For a school election, that's exceptional," she said. "Historically, school elections are a low turnout vote."
The money from the bonds will go to dozens of improvements around the school, notably a 41,690-square-foot addition that would add nine classrooms, a study hall, locker rooms with showers, a commons area and extra office and storage space.
The bonds will also pay for rehabilitating the old building to accommodate the addition and upgrading the school's electrical and heating systems.
Built almost 60 years ago, the school was designed for a maximum capacity of about 400 students. It has housed as many as 500 students, but enrollment has stayed steady at about 480 in recent years.
The state could provide at least $971,805 during the bond's 15-year life because Hardin's taxable value is lower than the state average, leaving about $6.5 million for the taxpayers to repay. The school district said that would mean that a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $40 more a year.
The school district is eligible for Qualified School Construction Bonds, which are interest-free, and the projected interest savings during the bond's life could add up to about $4.5 million.