GFPS estimates reduction in permissive levies for second year

The Great Falls Public Schools board voted during their Jan. 23 meeting to approve estimated changes in the district’s permissive levies.

Those levies include tuition, adult education, building reserve, flexibility fund, bus depreciation and transportation.

Overall, the levies are estimated to go down, according to Brian Patrick, GFPS’ director of business operations.

Patrick said it’s the second year in a row that the overall permissive levies are going down.

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Montana law requires school boards to adopt a resolution whenever they intend to increase a non-voted levy for the next fiscal year. The district is required to publish the description amounts and impact on a $100,000 and $200,000 home by March 31.

Patrick said the information is scheduled to be printed in the paper on Feb. 16.

Patrick included estimates for the levies in the board packet, but they are estimates since many factors affect the actual mills levied during the next budge. Many of those items aren’t determined until the end of the current fiscal year in late June, according to Patrick.

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State law allows public school districts to permissively levy $15,000 for school facilities maintenance, plus $110 per budgeted student enrollment counts.

GFPS is planning the following projects for those funds in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1:

  • Elementary: mechanical, electrical, and plumbing upgrades and window replacements
  • High School: mechanical, electrical, roofing, and plumbing upgrades and window replacements at C.M. Russell High School, Great Falls High School and the Paris Gibson Education Center.

The tuition fund is estimated to have an overall decrease due, in part, to not having to pay out of state tuition for a student, according to Patrick’s staff report, but there continues to be an increase in the numbers and severity of students with special needs that the district is serving. The Office of Public Instruction provides a calculator that helps identify allowable increases for this fund.

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GFPS staff are recommending a small increase in the bus depreciation levy, which is the fund that replaces existing school buses owned by the district.

The bus depreciation budget only applies to the three Type E buses that the district owns and operates as school buses. These vans have to be 5-star rated and the drivers must have an “S” endorsement on their license. The amount levied cannot exceed 20 percent of the original cost of the bus. The amount budgeted over time may not exceed 150 percent of the original cost of the bus. The district does not use the bus depreciation fund for any of the buses owned and operated by Big Sky Bus Lines.

The transportation fund is estimated to increase by the amount set in the contract specifically for bus driver and aide salary increases, according to GFPS. The transportation fund deals solely with the cost of transporting students to and from school by Big Sky Bus Lines.

The adult education fund will not change.

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The estimated increase to the flexibility fund is $55,000, or 0.36 mills, with an impact of 49 cents on a $100,000 taxable value house, according to GFPS.

The additional funds will support the transformational learning program, according to Patrick’s staff report.

The estimated impact for all combined funds is a reduction of 4.29 mills, which equates to a reduction of $5.80 in taxes on a $100,000 home or a reduction of $11.59 on a $200,000 home, according to GFPS figures.

Final figures will be determined during the budget process and set in August.

The GFPS board budget committee reviewed the estimates during their Jan. 18 work session and recommended that the full board adopt the resolution.