Printed on: March 24, 2013

Bond measures to go back before voters in Salmon

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON -- The Salmon school board will ask voters to choose between two bond issues May 21.

A $3.6 million bond would fund repairs to the elementary and middle schools, and a $14.6 million measure would provide enough funding to replace the aging facilities.

The decision to call for another school bond vote comes just days after a state panel authorized up to $3.6 million for safety upgrades for roofing and wall structures at the schools.

That group oversees a state funding program that advances money to fix imminent safety hazards in school buildings. The money is earmarked for school districts in which voters have failed to approve bond measures to remedy such problems.

Ultimately, local taxpayers must pay back the money.

Assessments of Pioneer Elementary and Salmon Middle schools showed they did not meet seismic or snow-loading standards. Those and other upgrades are in the offing even if voters reject both bond proposals in May.

Schools Superintendent Joey Foote said the board approved a ballot with two bond proposals to give voters yet another opportunity to assess their options.

Salmon-area residents have rejected bonds to build a new complex eight times in as many years.

But with the state panel requiring the upgrades, school board members want district patrons to consider one last time whether they want their tax money invested in the decades-old facilities or new construction, Foote said.

The question of replacing the schools has divided Salmon since 2005, the first year the district floated a bond measure.

Supporters of a new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school complex have argued that the community would save money in the long run because the new facility would last for decades.

Opponents have expressed worries about burdening taxpayers in an area with both high unemployment and poverty rates. They also argue that a lack of proper maintenance at the schools caused them to deteriorate.