Every year, school officials must assess the budget and either make cuts, ask voters to approve a tax increase or both.
This year, Townsend, Helena, Boulder and Clancy are running levy elections, and some also have trustee elections. Ballots are set to be sent out today. Polls close at 8 p.m. on May 8.
Townsend schools are struggling with a budget deficit, according to Superintendent Andrea Johnson, and the board decided to run a $60,000 levy request. Johnson says the budget struggle can be attributed to declining enrollment, increased health insurance costs, decreased federal funds, increased curricular requirements from the state, and higher costs associated with providing educational programs for students.
Early estimates showed the need to trim at least $98,000 from the budget, Johnson said. To reduce the deficit, the board voted in late March to eliminate two classified positions (school-to-work and a paraprofessional) for next year. The staff reductions decreased the deficit by $29,000.
“Anticipating the decreases in state and federal funding, the district has worked diligently to reduce the potential impact on taxpayers,” she said
Despite the reductions already made, there is still a general fund deficit. The Townsend trustees decided to run to seek the $60,000 levy to help address the deficit in the general fund. If approved, it would increase taxes on a home with a taxable value of $100,000 by about $8.34.
“We have a list of options that include staff positions that my have to be considered should the levy not pass,” Johnson said.
Trimming the bottom line is nothing new in the Class B district southeast of Helena since the majority of school funding is based on enrollment and the number of students has decreased by well over 100 in the past 15 years.
“Over the years we’ve been cutting staff — mostly with just not filling positions,” the superintendent said.
Johnson notes that the $60,000 levy will be used to continue the educational programs currently in place, and not to add new programs.
“The levy will help the district provide the best education that it can for the community’s children,” she said. Without approval of the levy, the district could face staff cuts and changes in spending on current programs, Johnson added.
Townsend also has two open trustee seats. Steven Cooper and Kari Williams are running unopposed for the two positions, which each come with a three-year term.
Also on school ballots
In Helena, there’s a $179,000 levy in the elementary district on the ballot. If approved, taxes would increase by $2.99 on a $100,000 home. Four candidates are vying for two open seats. Terry Beaver, Niki Whearty, Ellen Feaver and Lisa Wordal are running for the three-year seats. The districts in East Helena and Helena are running an all-mail-ballot, combined election.
The East Helena School District is not asking for a levy but has two seats open on the board. There are three candidates: Joseph Nye, Bill Hurford and Kevin Bokovoy.
The Clancy School District is asking voters to approve a $39,000 levy. If approved, taxes on a $100,000 home would increase by $10.47. There are also two candidates listed on the ballot for two vacant seats: Dale Field and Amy Williams.
In Boulder, the Jefferson High School board of trustees is asking for a $48,000 levy, which if approved would raise taxes on a home with taxable value of $100,000 by $4.79.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081, email@example.com or Twitter.com/IR_AlanaListoe