By Amanda Eggert EBS Staff Writer
BIG SKY – The Big Sky School District will receive $830,000 to finish Ophir Elementary facilities following the passage of a building reserve fund levy.
A total of 748 ballots had were counted and 55 percent of voters in the district were in favor of funding with 45 percent opposed. Fifty-seven percent of eligible voters participated in the election.
A similar measure was put before Big Sky School District voters in March 2015. That measure was defeated, with 57 percent of voters opposed to it. Turnout was lower in that election with 660 ballots counted last year.
“We’re really happy to make this next step forward in this school and really grateful to everyone who participated in the election,” said Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman.
In May 2013, voters approved a $10.2 million bond to fund the purchase of two lots and the construction of the Ophir Elementary School building. Problems with soil at the site led to at least $800,000 in unanticipated construction expenses to shore up an unstable foundation. As a result, there was a budget shortfall and parts of the school have remained unfinished since it opened last September.
“I think voters understand now that the school’s open that we built a quality school and really, the need was there,” said BSSD board chair Loren Bough, adding that the district probably saved about $2.5 million by funding the measure now rather than waiting a couple years, when building expenses will likely increase.
There were also two open school board trustee positions in this election, and Loren Bough and Whitney Littman were the only declared candidates. Bough is currently the board chair, and this will be Littman’s first term. Laura Michel’s three-year term is complete and she opted not to run for reelection.
The results for the Rural Fire District elections are in as well. Four candidates ran for two open trustee positions. Renae Schumacher and Carol L. Collins received the most votes, garnering 437 and 326, respectively. Bart Mitchell was next with 246 and Matt Dodd received 205.
Both Schumacher and Collins are incumbents and will be serving additional three-year terms.
“I think it’s wonderful that they have the opportunity to serve the community again,” said Big Sky Fire Department Chief William Farhat. “They’ve been a great asset to our department.”