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Despite the coronavirus pandemic shutting down big swaths of the economy and putting many people out of work, Gallatin County voters on Tuesday backed a majority of local schools' requests to raise property taxes.

Major school construction bonds passed in Three Forks to raise $25 million and in Big Sky to raise $23.5 million, and the annual school-operating levy passed in the Manhattan elementary district, according to unofficial final results from the Gallatin County elections office.

While a total of six local tax levies passed Tuesday, three failed — in the Amsterdam and Monforton elementary school districts and the Manhattan high school district.

More than 58% of voters said yes to the Bozeman School District’s request for $1 million a year “transition levy” for up to six years to help pay the costs of opening and running its second high school.

“I think it passed because Bozeman places such a high value on education,” said Bozeman School Superintendent Bob Connors. He admitted he had been nervous because it was his first levy election as superintendent and because the pandemic has hurt people financially.

Passage will provide more money to operate two high schools when Gallatin High School opens in August.

“It allows us to provide that quality education without having to make cuts,” Connors said. “We thank you (voters) very much for your support, and we will continue to earn your trust.”

The Bozeman School Board promised voters that the $1 million a year transition levy would result in a tax increase of zero. That’s because the new  tax is to be “completely offset” by reducing other taxes — using interest money the school district has already earned from the $125 million voters approved in 2017 for school construction bonds. The transition levy passed by a vote of 10,137 to 7,270, according to results from the Gallatin County elections office.

Three Forks School District voters approved two building bond issues totaling $25 million to build new classrooms, expand school buildings and take care of a backlog of aging infrastructure problems.

In the Big Sky School District, voters said yes to a $23.5 million bond issue to expand classroom and gym space and common areas at the Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School and put in a turf field. The measure passed by 53% to 46%.

Also in Big Sky, voters approved raising the local resort sales tax by 1%, from 3%, for up to 12 years. It’s expected to raise up to $39 million to expand and upgrade wastewater and sewage treatment systems, which can affect Gallatin River and groundwater quality as well as residential and commercial construction. That tax increase passed by nearly 69% to 30%.

Casey Hayes, Gallatin County elections manager, said the elections office mailed out more than 52,000 ballots for Tuesday’s elections for schools and special districts. Here are final unofficial results:

--Bozeman School District voters elected two elementary district trustees — incumbent Greg Neil, co-owner of the First West insurance agency seeking a second term, was reelected with 8,483 votes, and newcomer Kevin Black, a commercial real estate agent for Gene Cook Real Estate, won with 7,611 votes. First-time candidate Brian Page, a bus driver and web programmer, fell short with 3,625 votes.

--Manhattan School District: Mike Swan, running in the elementary district, and Ethan Severson, seeking re-election as a high school trustee, were unopposed. The elementary district request to increase property taxes by $192,809 a year passed with 51% of the vote. The high school district’s request for a $146,285 tax increase failed with just 44% yes votes.

--Amsterdam School District: Voters elected Kristy Kamerman Sullivan as trustee for a three-year term with 378 votes, while candidate Todd Graham lost with 118 votes. The district’s request to raise local property taxes by $20,000 a year failed by 49% to 50%, or 280 to 289 votes.

--Monforton School District: Tara Gray was the only trustee candidate. The district’s request to raise property taxes by $130,348 a year failed with 48% yes votes, or 510 to 541 votes.

--Three Forks School District: Voters elected two elementary trustees – Lori Sayers with 894 votes and Joe Petersen with 726 votes, while Jason Coursey, fell short with 291 votes. Robert Buchholz was unopposed seeking to fill a one-year unexpired term.

--Big Sky School District: Stacy Ossorio was unopposed seeking a three-year term as a high school trustee.

--West Yellowstone School District: Voters elected two trustees for three-year terms, Kelsey Meitzel with 253 votes and Glenn Hales with 249 votes. Candidates who fell short were Jim Gunning with 146 votes and Jason Howell with 227 votes.

--Willow Creek School District: Jody Johns was unopposed a three-year term as trustee.

--Pass Creek School District: Jason Callantine ran unopposed.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.

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