W. Valley ballots due on Tuesday

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Ballots in West Valley School’s $3.5 million bond election are due Tuesday.

The district last month mailed 1,950 ballots to its active voters. Those ballots must be returned to the school no later than 8 p.m. Tuesday to count in the election.

At stake is a proposed 18,000-square-foot addition for West Valley’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

The expansion would include 10 new classrooms, a restructured library and a new science room. The existing science lab would be converted into an art room.

The wing also would include additional restrooms and storage areas, and a new bus drop-off would be built off McMannamy Draw north of the school.

If there is enough money, school officials also hope to build a new kitchen or at least the shell of a kitchen.

Several people have criticized the district for running a bond election in the middle of a recession.

If voters approve the issue, property taxes on a home with a $100,000 taxable value would increase about $73 a year. Annual property taxes on a home with a $150,000 taxable value would go up about $109.

But West Valley officials say the school’s growth made the bond request necessary. In the last decade, enrollment rose 33 percent, more than any other Flathead County district.

There are nearly 70 more students at the school than there were five years ago. Nearly half that growth has happened during the recession.

At the end of the school year, there were 433 students enrolled. That’s just 44 students away from the building’s maximum capacity, according to estimates earlier in the school year by a pair of Idaho-based consultants.

The school board also decided to pursue the bond election because trustees hope the district will be able to secure low interest rates on the bonds and be able to build for around $200 a square foot.

A simple majority will decide the election.

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