School Elections 2013 - FAQ



Frequently Asked Questions

Didn't I already approve a levy for the schools?  Why are schools asking for more money?

Montana state law funds schools through two primary methods:  state taxes and local property taxes.  The legal funding mechanism for schools is designed so that schools approach the community on a regular basis to increase local property taxes to support ongoing education costs.

How is the 2013-2014 budget need determined?

The budget is based on last year's program funding + estimated increases in costs. It is based on factual information and represents the true cost to run the schools' quality programs.

How much revenue is already coming to the schools next year?  Is there really a need for a levy?

The schools have funding in the amount of $64,553,214 through a combination of both local and state allocations, including new funds through Senate Bill 175.

How deficient is the school budget for next year?

To maintain current programs, the schools currently have a $65,544,962 (Current program for next year) - $64,553,214 (Current calculated revenue for next year) = $991,748 shortfall.

What else will my taxes pay for beyond the current school programs?

In addition to filling a portion of the budget shortfall, the schools are asking the community to support expanding schools in a number of ways.  This graphic (click to enlarge) demonstrates the many ways schools are looking to improve with additional funding.  The needs focus on Graduation Matters, 21st Century Learning, and Safe and Secure Schools.


click to enlarge

What is the total shortfall of the budget including the "Our Needs" total above?

The total shortfall is $991,748 + $842,000 = $1,833,748.

The plan for covering the shortfall is a balanced approach of reducing the budget where enrollment decreases allow, spending from available reserves, and asking the community to pass a levy.

The plan to cover the shortfall is:

$252,000 (budget cuts) + $600,00 (reserves) + $981,758 (levy) = $1,833,748.

What about reserves?  Doesn't the district have some money in the bank to pay for some of this?

The schools have reserve accounts and are planning to once again spend some of those reserves to lower the amount of the levy request to the community. This has been the balanced approach taken by the schools for the past several years.

Most reserves are not savings accounts. They are flow-through accounts and can’t be spent on general fund expenditures. The District has no bond debt that tax payers have to pay for because the reserves that can be spent are spent on maintaining assets (like buildings).

Please reference the ending reserve fund balances PDF to learn a bit more about the schools' reserves.

Can't the District easily cut more?

The schools identified staffing cuts that can be made of $252,000, and plan to take those cuts this year.

The district has made operational cuts every year since 2008:

Reductions and cuts--2008-2013

2008-2009 $2,650,000
2009-2010 $614,894
2010-2011 $311,635
2011-2012 $1,800,000
2012-2013 $500,000

Total operational cuts:  $5,876,529

  • 50 Teachers cut in the last 5 years
  • 6 Clerical Staff Members in the last 6 years
  • Several Aides and Paraprofessionals cut as well

What is the balanced approach to funding next school year?

The schools, through the community budgeting process, have reached a framework that is balanced for funding next school year.  It is comprised of taking $252,000 in operational cuts, spending $600,000 from reserves, and asking the community to approve a $981,748 levy.

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The District asks for a levy every year.  Why?

Please note the information regarding Montana school-funding law at the top of this page.  In the last 7 years, a levy has been requested 4 times. Of those 4 times, the levy passed twice. In the last 7 years, taxpayers have had to pay additional taxes for their public schools twice. Prior to 7 years ago, levies passed each year. Please see this graphic for a history of levies dating back to 1998.

My taxes keep going up and up. How can I afford another tax increase?

Most property taxes in GF have gone down since 2007 with an increase this last year but still less than 2007.  The levy request will cost approximately $12 / year for a homeowner with a taxable value of $100,000.  Please navigate to the What Will it Cost page to learn exactly how much the levy request will impact you.

What is the district's cost per student? How does that compare with other AA districts?

Great Falls spends the least per student of all of the AA districts in Montana. Despite this fact, GFPS continues to maintain student scores that exceed the state and national averages.

General Fund Spent Per Student
GF $8,701
Kalispell $9,050
Helena $9,108
Billings $9,121
Butte $9,266
Missoula $10,406
Bozeman $10,541

 

Are students achieving in GFPS?

Yes.  Student test scores exceed the state and nation.

How about compared to other large (AA) districts in Montana?

and our students are challenged by poverty more than other AA districts

Aren't our district teachers and administrators paid too much?

GFPS salaries are the 3rd lowest of AA districts.

I've heard about waste in the schools - is that true?

If there is… the schools need to know about it.

Board Policy 5600:  "The district desires and needs to conserve resources and cut operational costs wherever possible. Employees who are able to make suggestions, which effect significant savings to the district, should receive some personal benefit for their ideas."

 

Want to help a colleague, neighbor or friend understand the facts about the levy election?  Head over to the election resource page to download this information.

 

Ballots mailed to voters on June 10.
Be sure to mail your ballot by June 21 for the
June 25 election.

THANK YOU!