SD2 to run mill levies in May

2013-03-05T10:53:00Z 2013-04-04T09:46:21Z SD2 to run mill levies in MayBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

School District 2 trustees voted Monday night to place on the May ballot a general fund mill levy and a technology levy for the elementary school district.

The general fund levy, which the board indicated in January it would pursue, will be used specifically to hire new teachers for the district. SD2 currently has 99 classrooms with higher student/teacher ratios than the state allows.

Hiring the new teachers would allow the district to cut down on some of the larger classes at the elementary school level. 

Trustees discussed at length the importance of running the levy to hire the new teachers as key to the success of implementing the district's new master facilities plan.

The plan, also voted on Monday night, calls for the building of two new middle schools, an elementary school and updating McKinley and Broadwater Elementary schools in its first phase. 

Being able to pass a mill levy in May is seen as a vital first step for the district to show its ability to maintain and staff new schools should they be built. 

For that reason, trustees and administrators sparred over whether to add a technology levy to the ballot as well. 

"The most important thing we need to do in the next few months" is pass the general fund levy, Superintendent Terry Bouck told trustees.

He cautioned the board, telling them that putting the tech levy on the May ballot could weaken the chances of general fund levy passing.

However, the board has been trying for years to get a technology levy for the elementary and middle schools passed. Each time it's come before voters, it's been voted down. 

"We're already behind. We're already way behind on technology in our schools," said Trustee Connie Wardell.

She argued the community would support two levies. 

Trustee Pam Ellis joined in support of the tech levy.

"We are a decade behind every other double-A in the state," Ellis said.

The board voted unanimously to place the general fund levy on the May ballot. Trustees then voted 4-3 to place the tech levy on the ballot. 

The four trustees in support were Wardell, Ellis, Lindy Graves and Travis Kemp. Voting to wait were Kathy Aragon, Greta Besch Moen and Allen Halter. 

Because both levies are specific to the elementary school district, Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe and Trustee Travis Smith -- the board's two high school district representatives -- did not vote. 

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