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Belgrade to hold meeting in hopes of passing school mill levies

By Colin Cashin, KTVM Reporter, ccashin@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 18 2014 06:30:40 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 18 2014 06:45:37 PM MDT
BELGRADE, Mont. -

The Belgrade School District will soon hold a public meeting to talk about its proposed mill levy that's on the May election ballot. It's an effort to get voters on board with the school district after a similar levy failed to pass last year.

In 2013 the Belgrade School District asked for just over $630,000 in mill levies to staff schools, but voters didn't approve.

A couple months ago the district started a committee to raise voter awareness of this year's mill levy. This time, they're asking for about $825,000.

In this May's school election the Belgrade School district is asking for voters to approve two different mill levies -- just under $712,000 for the elementary schools and just over $112,000 for high schools.

Belgrade School District Superintendent Candy Lubansky explained, "If we don't have that we struggle with trying to add the teachers that are essential for our growing population."

Lubansky says they need the money to hire six new teachers, a nurse and to update school materials. Plus, she says, the mill levy will help restore services they had to cut back on after last year's levy failed to pass.

The superintendent said, "It ended up reducing time for food service, playground aides, para-educators, custodians."

But with voters saying no to a levy last year, there's worry it won't pass this year, either. So the district formed a committee to educate the community on these levies.

Committee co-chair Rebecca Gardner says they've spent weeks getting the word out on just what the levies will go toward in hopes they'll get more support. So far, she says response has been good.

Gardner said, "They want to support it, they want to support out schools. Most importantly they want to support our community."

So here's how the levies would break down for taxpayers -- according to the school district, if the levies are passed they would work out to around a $56 tax increase per year on a $200,000 home.

Lubansky told us, "There is a nice pie chart on those tax bills and it's very clear that schools are the biggest part of that."

The town hall meeting for the mill levy will be held on Thursday, April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Belgrade High School auditorium.

We also visited with officials at the Gallatin County Election Department. They tell us last year only 3,500 of the nearly 11,000 ballots mailed out to Belgrade School District voters were returned.

This year they're mailing out just over 9,800 -- much fewer. The office says that's because voters might have become inactive or moved away.

They say it's common for 35 to 40 percent of mail-in ballots to be returned.

Gallatin County Election Administrator Charlotte Mills told us, "Depending on how educated the voters have been on the issue that's on the ballot, if they're more educated, typically the turnout is higher than if they've not been contacted and they just don't know so they just don't vote."

We're told the Belgrade School District recently refinanced two building bonds, which will return approximately $565,000 to school district taxpayers.

The ballots for this year's mill levies will be mailed out Monday, April 21 and are due in no later than 8 p.m. on May 6.