School Board places levy on ballot for spring election

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Miles City Unified Board of Trustees the board voted unanimously to add an operational levy to the ballot for the spring election. 

The levy, which would be for the elementary district, would be for $195,000 and would run for one year.

According to Superintendent Keith Campbell, the money from an operational levy would go to budgeted funds like salaries, supplies, maintenance and more.

Around this time last year the board decided against running an operational levy for the elementary district as they didn’t believe it was the right time. 

During the meeting it was decided that now was the time to ask the voters for assistance. 

According to School Board Chairman Bob Wagner, without a vote the elementary district budget would be just over $7 million, which is a decrease of $120,000 for the biennium. That’s $60,000 each year. 

“I think asking our voters for the assistance, being able to maximize that budget, will be the best for the district,” Wagner said.

The board hasn’t run an operational levy since 2013. 

What it really comes down to is the community understanding the needs of the district. And those needs are in infrastructure,” said Campbell. “Unfortunately, we’ve done everything we can. We’ve applied for grants. We’ve done everything we can do. We aren’t even coming close to meeting the needs of our district.”

Currently the district is running a building reserve levy for the high school. They are also still paying off the loan used to replace the boiler at Lincoln Elementary School. 

The loan was taken out in May 2013 and will be paid off by May 2018. 

The board also voted on whether or not to adopt a resolution to be able to run permissive levies.

The board voted unanimously for the elementary district. For the high school district the resolution passed with one against. Board member Eric Doeden voted against the resolution. 

A permissive levy is a non-voted tax levy. This levy deals with revenues for tuition, building reserve, adult education, transportation and bus depreciation. This would be for the 2018 fiscal year. 

Usually the board doesn’t deal with permissive levies until August but due to Senate Bill 307 in the current session of the Montana Legislature, they had to vote on it in March, said Campbell.

According to Campbell, SB 307 is one of the last main bills left that could potentially help with school infrastructure. The bill would allow districts to permissively levy money into their building reserve budgets. 

“Right now the only way to raise money in your building reserve is to ask the taxpayers for it in a levy election,” said Campbell. “This bill would allow the district to raise some money permissively without a vote but it requires the district to be transparent and tell the taxpayers how much they will levy and what it will be used for.”

The increased transparency would also require the district to tell their community every March what they expect to levy in those permissive funds, said Campbell. 

To do that the district would need to post in the newspaper and on their website, Campbell said. 

According to Campbell, right now the district doesn’t have to inform the community on how much is being levied until the budget is adopted by the board in August. 

If SB 307 doesn’t pass then everything will stay the same. 

According to Campbell, the district has permissive levies in place right now. 

According to Wagner, they don’t intend to run permissive levies but they had to pass these resolutions to even have the option in the future.