Whitefish School Bond Ballots Hit Mailboxes

By Beacon Staff

Along with monthly bills, postal mailboxes recently held something else for northwest valley residents. Ballots for the $21.5 million Whitefish High School Bond were mailed late last week to registered voters throughout Whitefish School District.

The ballot arrived with several pieces, including directions, the ballot itself, and two return envelopes. Voters still have several weeks until they are due on Mar. 27. But unlike many other elections where a certain minimum number of voters is required to validate the vote, this one will be decided by a simple majority of the validated ballots returned. The previous Whitefish High School renovation bond failed in 2003 by approximately 151 votes.

In recent weeks, the debate over the bond boiled. Opponents dubbed the new construction the “Taj Mahal,” decrying increased taxes especially on the tail of Central School’s renovation and voicing concern over dropping enrollment. Supporters advocated for school safety and better education by replacing the school’s small, ailing, unsafe, and technologically inadequate original cinderblock building with new flexible classroom space and closing the campus with a lunchroom.

Over the last two months, Friends of Whitefish Schools has conducted public tours of the high school. For those wishing to take an in person look at the high school’s current facilities, one more public tour is scheduled for Thursday, Mar. 13 from 6 – 7 p.m.

To determine the financial impact to the bond, property owners can also estimate their individual annual tax increase over the next 20 years by multiplying the “taxable market value” of their property by .0012. (Find taxable market values by doing at parcel search at http://gis.mt.gov.)

To count, ballots must be returned to the county election office by 8 p.m. on Mar. 27. Add a stamp to mail them in, or hand deliver them to the Whitefish School District Administration Office at Central School (enter through the auditorium doors on Spokane Ave.) or to the Election Department, 800 South Main, Kalispell.