GFPS board votes to send levy to May ballot
The Great Falls Public Schools board voted unanimously during their Nov. 25 meeting to send a levy to the May ballot.
The numbers needed to calculate the levy amount aren’t yet finalized, but according to school officials, using this year’s numbers the levy amount would be an estimated $1.3 million. Brian Patrick, GFPS business operations director, said the levy amount would likely be slightly more than that but would be finalized in the spring.
The levy will go on the May ballot, which will also include three school board positions.
School board members said they typically make a decision about pursuing a levy in February, but wanted to start earlier this year in an effort to better educate the public about the schools budget and what they called a “dire” need for more funding.
Under state law, the state provides 80 percent of a school districts complete operational budget. The state left the other 20 percent up to local taxpayers.
The school board’s budget committee held multiple public meetings about the budget and levy options, including two in November.
Last week, about 150 people attended the meeting and many of the people who offered comments in support of a levy were educators who said they were operating with limited textbooks, manuals and other resources needed to provide the best education for students. They also said classrooms were overcrowded, limiting teachers’ ability to provide individualized instruction for students.
Kim Skornogoski, school board member, said during the Nov. 25 meeting that “we know, frankly, after 12 years of cuts, we know that we need the money.”
Jason Brantley, school board member, said that cuts are never easy and that 60 percent of district students qualify for free and reduced lunch. He said the issues students face now are compounded by overcrowded classrooms.
“I think we’re in desperate need of passing this levy,” he said.
Cutting teachers and programs can only go on for so long before the impact is noticeable, he said.
Teresa Schreiner, board member, said “there’s no stronger investment than human capital.”
She said that there’s a connection between investment in education and growing the Great Falls economy.