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School elections: Muszkiewicz, McKee win Helena trustee seats; Townsend bond narrowly passing

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Posted at 10:40 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 11:44:20-04

Tuesday was Election Day for Montana school districts.

In the Helena School District, voters chose two members of the district Board of Trustees. Incumbent Luke Muszkiewicz, who is currently chairing the board, was elected for a second three-year term – finishing first among five candidates, with almost 35% of the vote.

Jennifer McKee, in second place with 22%, also won a seat on the board. Paul Stahl finished in third with 18%, followed by Lois Fitzpatrick with 12% and Christina Noel with 11%.

McKee will replace trustee Jeff Hindoien, who chose not to run for a second term.

Voters also approved two additional levies: one raising $301,446 a year for the Helena elementary school district, and another raising $108,454 a year for the Helena high school district.

“First and foremost, I am incredibly thankful to the voters of Helena for approving the elementary and high school levies,” Muszkiewicz said in a statement. “Continuing to invest in our extraordinary educators is the single most important thing we can do for our kids. I'm incredibly proud of our public schools in Helena, and I remain honored and thankful to continue my service on the board of trustees.”

“I’m really thankful for all the support from Helenans who care about their public schools,” said McKee. “I’m excited to start on the work ahead of us.”

The results were still unclear on the Townsend School District’s $18.8 million bond proposal to build a new elementary school. Broadwater County authorities reported a razor-thin margin of two votes after counting concluded on Election Night – 1,040 in favor and 1,038 opposed.

Doug Ellis, Broadwater County’s elections administrator, said Tuesday that they did not receive any provisional ballots to be added to that total.

Montana state law calls for a recount on a county ballot issue if the margin is within 0.25% and at least 10 residents file a petition. The margin in this case appears to be well within that limit.

Ellis said he will contact the Montana Secretary of State’s Office Wednesday to determine how to proceed.

The bond proposal would replace Townsend’s current elementary school, which district leaders say is outdated and impractical to renovate. It would also pay for renovations at the middle school and safety and security updates.

Jason Noyes, chair of the Townsend school board, said, if the result is confirmed, they will likely move forward this year with design work and put the project up for bid in 2021.

“Obviously, the board is excited for the support we’ve received,” Noyes said. “We’re excited to move forward.”