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Proposed tax increase concerns public at Mission school board meeting

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ST. IGNATIUS – During the Mission School Board meeting on March 15, Superintendent Jason Sargent faced tough questions concerning the proposed school improvement bond.

Mail in bond election ballots will be sent out beginning Wednesday, April 6, to residents within the Mission School District. The ballots need to be returned to the election office by Tuesday, May 3. The bond at $5.2 million will be spread out over 20 years and increase the taxes on a $100,000 home by $147.36 per year if it passes.

It was stated by an individual during the public comment portion of the meeting that the bond would increase his taxes substantially and he wanted to know if it was really necessary.

“We are aware and understand the concerns,” Superintendent Sargent said. 

Sargent also stated that he appreciated the tough questions.

“I want to hear from more people that are for or against this,” he said. “I want to hear more concerns, more questions.”

Superintendent Sargent explained that he felt the school renovation project was necessary. He explained that it would fix many structural problems and provide more opportunities for students.

The project includes plans to build a new shop, to build new bathrooms, to fix the elementary roof and other structural problems, and to build an additional gym. The new gym would also include new locker rooms.

Sargent said that an additional gym would give students the space to practice sports like many other schools across Lake County. He also explained that extra-curricular sports activities help keep kids involved in school so they are less likely to drop out. 

Board member Peter Matt added that schools across Montana aren’t receiving enough funding for structural needs.

“This is the avenue we have to take to accomplish deferred maintenance,” he said of the bond. “It’s a growing trend (for schools).” 

Board chairman Gene Posivio said that he understands that it can be difficult to come up with the extra tax payment, but he feels the renovation project is needed.

“As a school board, we see the need for these maintenance and construction situations, but the public are the ones that have to decide,” he said.

Superintendent Sargent said that he has spoken with many people throughout the community concerning the bond, including a meeting at the St. Ignatius Senior Citizens’ dinner to talk to seniors. He also addressed the St. Ignatius Town Council and met with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

He said the meeting with the tribe was informational and not an attempt to procure funding, although he said that the tribe stated that they were looking into the possibility of dispersing revenue to all schools across the reservation. 

Superintendent Sargent said that he was looking at many funding sources. He submitted an application for a Quality School Grant, and he will continue to apply for other grants.

The board passed a motion to open the school renovation project up for quotes and interest from contractors to help with cost analysis associated with the project. 

Architect Scott Cromwell at Slate Architecture presented the school with a set of designs during the meeting to give the public a better idea of what the finished renovation project could cover. If the bond doesn’t pass, the school doesn’t owe the company reimbursement for the work. 

Superintendent Sargent is planning to include a bond presentation during the Monday, April 4, free community breakfast starting at 7:30 a.m. He is also scheduling an “all-call” and mass mailing campaign with voting reminders and information in April. 

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