Glasgow School Bond Frequently Asked Questions
September 20, 2023
In 2013, voters were asked to approve a facilities bond in the amount of $2,000,000. That bond called for the same Scottie track and field improvements that are being requested in this bond (as well as paving the High School parking lot, enclosing the commons area at GHS and installation of a turf softball field). That bond failed with 41 percent of 2,082 voters in favor of the project.
Since that time, the Glasgow School District has kept this project in the pipeline, patiently waiting for a more opportune time (Keystone pipeline to gain approval) to again ask voters for their support. Unfortunately, Keystone didn’t happen and during the spring of 2022 it became obvious that the temporary fixes being made every year to the track and field complex were no longer viable. Small cracks in the running surface of the track had gotten huge. The 40-year-old track surface that was completed in 1981 had received two rubberized surfaces in 1990 and 2000 and the rubberized surface was failing throughout the track. Major drainage problems exist underground as the root cause of the facility issues. These problems will persist and continue damaging the track and field without major reconstruction. This involves demolition of the current field, installation of an engineered drainage system, installation of a new field surface as well as constructing a post-tensioned concrete track over the existing track surface to better accommodate expansion and contraction related to northeast Montana’s extreme climate.
Costs for these renovations have quadrupled over the last 10 years. It was determined that unless the District acts now to save these facilities, it will likely become cost prohibitive in the future and the District will run the risk of having to further restrict use of, or possibly even close and condemn, the facilities and losing long-standing events that bring many people and money to Glasgow.
In September 2022 the Scottie Recharged Committee began researching what it would require both in scope of work and financially to renovate the track and field. Concurrently, the Glasgow School Board was expressing their growing concern over the age and condition of much of the infrastructure within the school district. In February 2023 the board moved forward by approving a contract with McKinstry, who then utilized Cushing Terrell staff, to conduct a comprehensive field inspection of the Glasgow school buildings and associated grounds. This involved an initial 2-day site visit involving a project manager, structural engineer, mechanical engineer and roofing specialist. They evaluated the already leaking GMS roof as well as the GHS roof and began an exterior and interior wall crack investigation, also at GHS. Their team also studied the aging boilers at GHS that have been operating erratically and providing a great amount of frustration for the administration and custodial staff.
While awaiting the complete facilities report from McKinstry, in March 2023 one of the boilers at GHS experienced a catastrophic failure. This project needed to be addressed immediately to ensure replacement of the boiler was complete by October 2023.
The McKinstry facility reports were returned to the board and reviewed at a meeting on April 26, 2023. Sections of the middle school roof needed immediate replacement to prevent further interior damage to the building. Other large sections of the middle school roof were poorly installed over 15 years ago and are failing at the seams. The GHS roof is leaking into the underlying insulation, has entrained moisture throughout the roof system and should be budgeted for replacement as soon as possible. The boilers at GHS were also reported as being dangerously close to failure, which we already recognized. After the report from McKinstry, the board moved forward and approved hiring McKinstry, who then subcontracted with Dale Plumbing and Heating, to replace the GHS boiler.
Funding for the boiler replacement and emergency repairs to the Middle School roof were approved at a special meeting on May 1, 2023. These maintenance projects were paid for through a combination of a 10-year Intercap loan and monies from the District’s building and multi-district funds.
The school board then faced the question of how to move forward with prioritizing and funding the remaining projects for the safety of our students: necessary replacement of large portions of two of our school roofs and the long-deferred renovations to our outdoor high school facilities were put at the top of the list. After consideration of these projects during the months of May, June and July the board of trustees moved forward with a bond levy request to fund repayment of the boiler loan, replacing sections of the GHS and GMS roofs and replacement of the GHS track and field with synthetic surfaces on Aug. 8, 2023.
HOW ARE SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN MONTANA FUNDED?
Funding for school districts is provided by a combination of federal, state and local taxes. Each funding source has many laws that govern how the money can be spent. Most of the money received from the federal and state governments goes into the General Fund, which is primarily used toward salaries and benefits (85 percent in Glasgow) and provide for students’ education. Taxes from local taxpayers are collected through a series of levies, including General Fund, Building Reserve, Transportation, Tuition, Technology, etc. Local levies are used to bridge the gap between state funding and what it actually costs to operate a school district. When Glasgow passed the levy request in May 2023 the district was fully funded to the maximum budget authority that the state allows for the 23-24 school year. But as with the money collected from taxes, there are restrictions on how schools can spend the money from levies. Expenses for small building maintenance projects can be pulled from the general fund, but the state caps the General Fund to an amount based on enrollment. Neither the federal government nor the state provides any funds for the construction or maintenance of school buildings and facilities, so this funding must be provided through building reserve levies and bonds. It is unfortunate that in Montana the burden for funding public schools, both education and facilities, falls on the taxpayer.
WHY HAVEN’T YOU SAVED MONEY TO USE FOR BUILDING MAINTENANCE LIKE WE DO IN OUR FAMILY?
By law, a district cannot carry over more than $10,000 or 10 percent of the upcoming school year adopted budget of the general fund (whichever is greater). Reserve limits have also been established for some of the other budgeted funds. No law forces a district to spend what is budgeted and raised through the various revenue sources. However, the amount carried over from one fiscal year to another must offset local non-voted revenue, and the amount of fund balance that may be reappropriated is limited to 15 percent of the ensuing year’s maximum general fund budget. Any excess over the limit must be reverted to the state. The Glasgow School District budget is already used in its entirety to operate the district as it exists today, without adding any major renovation or construction expenses.
WHY CAN’T YOU FUNDRAISE FOR THE MONEY INSTEAD OF RUNNING A BOND?
The Scottie Field Recharged committee began fundraising in January 2023 to help offset the costs of needed renovations to the track and field. The fundraising was largely met with skepticism as citizens were reticent to give to a publicly funded institution that was already collecting their tax dollars. The committee could attempt to fundraise to cover the $5 million to renovate the track and field, but that would result in needing to find 3,500 people willing to donate $1,428.57 each to see this project come to life. Any funds that have been or will be donated will be used to offset the amount of the bonds to lessen the burden on taxpayers.
Grant opportunities for the track and field were also researched. Many of these grants automatically disqualify public institutions and were unavailable to the Committee due to the Scottie Field complex being part of the Glasgow School District.
WHAT ROLE HAS THE SCOTTIE BOOSTER CLUB PLAYED?
The Scottie Booster Club has financially supported the work of the Scottie Recharged Committee. The Booster Club paid A&E Design for the initial design work for the track and field. They covered the costs related to the geotechnical survey of Scottie Field as well as expenses related to the mailer that residents will be receiving. They generously, and without question, provided this support to help complete the necessary preliminary work to obtain the costs related to the renovation project. The Glasgow School District has not used any District money in support of this project. At no time was the Scottie Booster Club asked to collect donations on behalf of the project nor did they volunteer to do so.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT TO ME IF I DON’T HAVE ANY CHILDREN IN SCHOOL OR IF MY CHILD DOESN’T USE THE FACILITIES BEING RENOVATED?
Education is the foundation of a healthy community. The Glasgow School District is committed to developing the full potential of our students, building skills for lifelong learning and developing positive growth and confidence. Roof repairs to two of the District’s older buildings will ensure that learning will not be disrupted by roof system failures, leaks or further damage to our facilities. Repairs to the track and field will ensure that the Scottie track and field will be available for use not only by students, but also by all the citizens of Glasgow, surrounding communities and the larger area of northeast Montana. It is the hope of the District that improvements to our aging outdoor facilities will not only encourage participation in physical education classes as well as extra-curricular activities, helping to develop each of our students as a whole person: academically, socially and physically, but also encourage potential newcomers to move to a community that supports the complete education of our students.
WHAT ABOUT THE INCREASE IN TAXABLE VALUE OF MY HOME FROM THE STATE OF MONTANA?
2023 is a revaluation year with the state of Montana and many taxpayers have received notice in an increase of their home’s taxable value. Even if the taxable values for homes go up, everyone’s taxes for bonds would still be about the same because mills would go down.
For bond levies and mill levies, if the taxable values go up for homes due to revaluations (and the changes are proportionate) then mills go down so the net change is $0. With new construction (or changes to property tax law that move the tax burden from residential to other classes like utilities, pipelines, or railroads) then mills go down and taxes go down. This is because new construction makes the tax base pie larger and everyone benefits. Usually over the term of a bond issue taxes go down over time because new properties are added with new construction which makes everyone’s taxes for the bond go down.
WHAT IS THE BOND MONEY GOING TOWARD? CAN THE DISTRICT USE THE MONEY FOR ANYTHING ELSE?
The breakdown of the bond request is as follows:
Repayment of a loan to fund replacement of the failed GHS boiler: $560,000
Replacement of certain sections of the GMS and GHS roofs: $3,079,039
Replacement of GHS track & field with synthetic surfaces & amenities: $5,000,000
The money will be used only and exactly for the items described on the ballot. The money cannot go into the general fund or be used for anything not specifically stated on the ballot. The ballot language also outlines how the money can be borrowed and legally the District cannot deviate from the bond language. If money remains after the listed projects are completed, the District will use those funds to have the traffic patterns in front of Irle School professionally evaluated and possibly move forward with a solution because this project was also included in the bond language.
WHY ARTIFICIAL TURF AND NOT NATURAL GRASS?
Many studies exist and can be found on the internet in support of both artificial turf and natural grass playing surfaces. Extensive research has also been done regarding student safety on each of these surfaces with these reports also available on the internet. This debate will continue to go on. The determination to replace the existing surface with turf was based on facts relevant to our situation in Glasgow. The consistency in a turf surface no matter the weather or time of year will allow for safer participation in events and classes for our students. The climate in northeast Montana makes it very difficult to maintain a healthy, consistent, dependable grass surface throughout the growing season and beyond. A turf field would allow for predictable, safe use much earlier in the spring and much later in the fall. Water is a problem with the clay soil that exists on the field site. When irrigation is necessary the water issues are compounded. Turf would eliminate the need to irrigate effectively eliminating this obstacle. The District currently maintains two grass surfaces, one for practice and one for games. Both require continuous maintenance with irrigation, mowing, fertilizer, weed control and aeration. The playing field also requires game preparation resulting in custodial staff using hours of their time each week during the months of August, September, October and often into November. These costs add up to great expense for the District. Although the cost of the turf surface will be a greater cost than grass in the beginning, the savings the District will experience over time will result in the turf paying for itself in 10 years. The life expectancy in modern turf will allow the District to use this surface for up to 20 years and generate income from advertising to pay for the planned-for recarpet as it reaches its life expectancy.