$69 Million to Replace Oldest School in the Bitterroot?
It's definitely a "big lift". But faced with an aging building that has served the community for more than a century, and more growth in the Southern Bitterroot, Hamilton School leaders believe it's time for voters to consider a major funding package.
And that package, which is on the ballots mailed to voters this week, totals a whopping $71 million dollars, most of which would go to replace the oldest major school building in the Bitterroot Valley.
Hamilton Middle School, which served for decades as the town's high school, is a century old. And even though its received meticulous maintenance over the years, district administrations have been saying it really needs to be replaced.
Several major pieces to the funding package
The plan, which is on the current Special Election ballot, would cost $ 55 million to build an entirely new middle school on the district's "Westview" property. Another $ 11 million would go allocated to an addition at Hamilton High School, plus some renovation at that location, with another $ 3.5 million for a new bus garage and maintenance facility.
The bond would put another $17.25 a month, or $207 a year per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
Voters are also considering fund for operations
At the same time, voters are also being asked to approve a $950,000 levy for maintenance and operations. That would mean $3.56 a month, or $42.72 a year per $100,000 in assessed value.
District leaders acknowledge the proposals are expensive, but say with rising construction costs replacement of the middle will only get more costly if the project waits. Plus, they point to the need to meet the area's growth, with enrollment that's been jumping at the rate of 10% per year.
Additionally, the new middle school will meet today's standards for safety.
Voters should be receiving their ballots in the mail now, and they will need to be mailed back by May 1st or left in local ballot drop boxes by May 2nd.