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Voters pass Helena building reserve levies

2013-11-05T20:23:00Z 2014-05-20T14:50:49Z Voters pass Helena building reserve leviesBy DEREK BROUWER Independent Record Helena Independent Record
November 05, 2013 8:23 pm  • 

Voters have decisively approved both building reserve levies put forth by Helena Public Schools.

With most ballots counted, around 60 percent of votes were cast in favor of the pair of levies for the elementary and high school districts, reversing the decision made by voters only six months ago.

“I'm obviously pretty excited,” Superintendent Kent Kultgen said Tuesday night, “but I’m also confident that it really showed the support that the community of Helena has traditionally shown for its schools.”

“It’s great to have that back,” he said.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, the elementary levy led by more than 2,500 votes. Last May, a nearly identical measure fell narrowly, by a margin of 224 votes.

The high school levy saw an even larger turn in support from voters. It led by more than 2,200 votes, or around 57 percent. It failed by almost 1,200 votes last time around.

Kultgen said the votes show that efforts by school officials and supporters to communicate and be transparent with residents have paid off, describing the result as the renewal of the district’s partnership with taxpayers.

“An election is much more than passing a levy,” he said. “I think a group of supporters got out and got information out to the public. That's what we set out to do and the results of this election show that we're there.”

Over 17,000 ballots were cast in the county elections, for a turnout of just over 40 percent.

Board of Trustees chair Libby Goldes expressed gratitude to voters and said the results were “heartening.”

Goldes said the reserve funds are important in enabling the district to address building needs, “which are always expanding.”

The school levies will raise a total of $2 million annually for the next decade. The funds are put toward maintenance projects and other facilities needs for each of the district’s 20 buildings.

Proposed projects over the next five years include more than 20 roofing repairs or replacements as well as boilers, parking lot upgrades and a few portable classrooms.

With the passage of both levies, the district is now poised to move forward with larger building renovation and construction projects.

“It really takes the pressure off now that we know we're capable of creating that learning environment for our kids for the next 10 years,” Kultgen said.

“Now we can move on to the next step which is to get a successful bond campaign going,” he added.

“With this support from the public, which we greatly appreciate,” Goldes said, “We know that it's now time to move forward and address some of these needs, which would encompass all of the schools in the district.”

While Goldes said new schools at Jim Darcy and Central are at the front of trustees’ minds, she also said all schools within the district are being considered in its long-range plan.

“I want to stress that it's a total school community. All schools are on the plan, and over time will have the needs addressed,” she said, “on a continuing basis.”

In assembling a bond campaign in the coming months, Goldes acknowledged that the district will face another challenge in communicating and seeking “continued input” from community members.

Meanwhile, Kultgen thanked supporters for their support for the building reserve. “We’ll be good stewards of the resources they give us and focus on the academics for all of our children,” he said.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Montana Mike
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    Montana Mike - November 06, 2013 4:31 pm
    Well, flo, while we can agree to disagree......the dollar a month you are talking about is in addition to the hundreds we are already paying. And while household and school district budgets don't "perfectly apply" they are principally the same.
  2. theflowbee
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    theflowbee - November 06, 2013 3:24 pm
    good points, mike. but one thing i might add is that while we are all forced to do more with less, this doesn't perfectly apply to the school district. in other words, in our families, we're not expected to do more with less money while our family constantly expands. the population of this district is expanding. again, you can't cram 5 people into a 4 person car and still be safe.
  3. Montana Mike
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    Montana Mike - November 06, 2013 1:26 pm
    The fact is real earned income for people has gone down. That means we, as individuals, are expected and must do more for less with our budgets. I believe it is only fair that the school district should do the same. Taxes on the other hand continue to go up and up and up! (But it's only a buck a month.....sarcarsm add).
    I could be wrong, but just like with "Big Government" expansion, the tax revenue they receive is never enough.
  4. theflowbee
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    theflowbee - November 06, 2013 12:32 pm
    WOW. just......wow.
    so where do you guys think the money should come from to maintain these archaic buildings and utilities? i'd love to hear your alternative solution. this raised your taxes by about a buck a month. again, not a NEW tax, just agreeing to keep paying the maintenance levy tax at about 50 cents to a buck more per month. windows in your house?? what? is your house a public institution? somehow the thought of the school district "expanding" is a great evil to you? if you have a car that holds 4 people, but you have 5 you need to put in there, what do you do? the population is expanding, thus the infrastructure has to change/expand to address that. how does the school district go about getting "a good chunk of change" from new construction? i'm not sure how that works. paying for maintenance costs (that are subject to inflation just like everything else) for our schools is not a liberal conspiracy to separate taxpayers from their money. also, this levy has nothing to do with school sports. be sure that if this didn't pass, you would eventually see programs being cut, which would lead to higher dropout rates, subsequent higher unemployment or underemployment, and certainly another tax increase to pay the unemployment and welfare. i speak for myself and many others that i know when i say that were programs to be cut at my school, i don't know if i would've graduated. programs keep MANY kids on the right track and IN school.
  5. justme59601
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    justme59601 - November 06, 2013 8:04 am
    the liberals are getting more of my money. i'm sure it's going to get significantly worse as obamacare taxes kick in soon. when will the american sheeple learn??
  6. Reader14
    Report Abuse
    Reader14 - November 06, 2013 6:56 am
    The schools should have gotten a good chunk of change from all the new construction taking place in the area. Then they ask taxpayers for more money? Sounds like double dipping to me.

    Also, there is too much emphasis in the schools on sports. Many times I've seen school buses on the roads during school hours hauling teams to some event. Back in the day, sports were truly "extra" curricular activities and held on Friday nights, Saturdays, and school holidays. Now they are almost every day of the week.

    And last, but not least, on any given school day, I see school age children roaming the streets of Helena. Why are they not in school? It's hard to believe that all those kids are being "home schooled" when they are not at home.

    Saying a tax increase is "for the children" is misleading at best...it's just a way for an entity to separate taxpayers from their money.
  7. Montana Mike
    Report Abuse
    Montana Mike - November 06, 2013 6:51 am
    Goldes said the reserve funds are important in enabling the district to address building needs, “which are always expanding.”
    Which tells you something of the mindset here.....the tax moneys are never enough!

  8. GivePeaceAChance
    Report Abuse
    GivePeaceAChance - November 06, 2013 5:33 am
    Look at your property tax bills. If you live in the city they went up 4% this year alone. Now the school and the press are poised to push a $100 million dollar bond issue on us. That will be another $100 a year in taxes. At this rate our real estate taxes will be like paying rent to the government. And we still have to pay the bank. When does it end? And don't say the people approved it. Just over half did. And many of them have a vested self interest in the confiscation of the money. They are teachers and relatives of teachers.

    At what point can people no longer afford to live in Helena? Then watch the school population start declining faster.
  9. RNB
    Report Abuse
    RNB - November 06, 2013 5:19 am
    Oh great my property taxes get to go up again for the schools. Don't get me wrong I am all for helping the schools and yes I have kids in the school system but look at your property tax statements 75% of it already goes to the schools.
    These reserves should of already been there buildings do not last forever and maintenance is a forgone necessity. The district needs to learn to budget there money cause I for one am tired of having my taxes increase every time the school district needs something.
    Hey I need new windows for my house can I have the people vote on a levy to pay for those things for me.

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