Ennis school bond fails again: Madison and Gallatin counties election recap
By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Voters in Madison and Gallatin County decided on key issues on Nov. 8, including the second iteration of the Ennis School Bond, cannabis ordinances in West Yellowstone and Manhattan, a tax levy for elderly care and a proposed golf course district in Madison County.
Madison County voters participated at a higher rate, with 71.49% of 7,117 registered voters submitting ballots. Gallatin County’s figure was 58.22%, drawing from the county’s much larger population.
Intended to address overcrowded and outdated school facilities that have faced 29% student body growth in the past decade, the initial version of the Ennis School Bond intended to renovate the Ennis School District’s facilities including a new gym and more classrooms. The bond failed in February 2022, receiving roughly 40% approval from voters.
That version had asked for $59 million funded by a property tax levy, and its failure prompted officials to revise plans, trimming the budget to $45 million.
The revised Ennis School Bond planned to add 74,700 square feet to educational spaces and renovate 18,600 square feet of existing facilities. On the Nov. 8 ballot, the bond failed for the second time, receiving only 42% of votes from Madison County voters.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed because there’s a need,” said Kyle Stone, chair of the Ennis School Board. “But the taxpayers spoke, and ultimately we need to move forward.”
Stone cited the difficult economy for the electorate’s unwillingness to take on more taxes. He said the community has been great to the Ennis School District, and he values their input. He encouraged residents to reach out with feedback to improve the school bond proposal.
In the meantime, the board is going to look for small solutions. The lack of classroom space is a priority, and the board will consider temporary modular classrooms. Security issues also might get some attention, according to Stone.
“We try to stay away from the Band-Aid fixes, but I think that’s where we’re headed for now,” he said.
Madison County also voted down the creation of a golf district, which would improve irrigation and replace turf equipment at the Madison County Golf Course. A tax levy would have raised $200,000 to create the district, which would then fund golf course upgrades.
The golf district proposal failed with only 34% of votes.
In Gallatin County, West Yellowstone residents voted in favor of an ordinance to prohibit marijuana businesses, including recreational and medical dispensaries, from operating within town limits. The ordinance will ban any business activity involving the cultivation, transport, testing, manufacturing and sale of cannabis.
The margin was slim, as 53% voted against permitting businesses to operate in West Yellowstone. Four hundred and thirteen votes were cast.
In Manhattan, a similar ordinance also passed with much stronger support. Of the 895 votes cast on the topic, 612 of them—68%—favored the ordinance against marijuana businesses.
Gallatin County voters also supported a rest home mill levy, with 62% of the 51,138 voters in favor of up to nine mills to raise roughly $4 million to fund the operational and capital needs of the Gallatin Rest Home in Bozeman.
The state-licensed Medicare/Medicaid facility operates with 69 beds and 24-hour nursing staff and faces a state funding gap due to increased operational cost and “inadequate Medicaid rates that are not sufficient to cover the cost of providing care,” according to the Gallatin County website. The county will not levy the mills unless additional funding is needed.