The first Montana elections of 2012 will be on May 8. That's the day that Montana statute says public school districts must hold trustee and general fund levy elections.
Ballots in Billings will include three seats on our school board, although only voters in three of nine districts will have the opportunity to vote for a trustee.
On Monday night, Billings trustees decided to also ask voters to approve a K-8 technology levy and the use of special federally subsidized bonds to repair schools.
Trustees also voted to state their intent to seek levies for operating the district's 30 schools as well as building reserve levies to help maintain the infrastructure.
The May election will be conducted by all-mail ballot. So voters can expect to receive ballots by mid-April. Trustees still have decisions to make about the amount of levy requests and exactly what levies they want the public to consider. However, the first deadline looming is March 29, the last date that candidates can file for trustee.
Trustee seats are up for election in:
- District 6, now represented by Allen Halter, recently appointed by the board to fill the vacancy created by Barbara Bryan's resignation. This district covers northwest Billings, ending at the school district's western boundary on the Molt Road. To view a map, go to the link with this Gazette opinion at billingsgazette.com.
- District 4, now represented by Kathy Aragon, who was elected without opposition after being appointed to fill an unexpired term. This is a central city district on the southeast border of District 6. To view a map, go to the link with this Gazette opinion at billingsgazette.com.
- Lockwood, which is a high-school-only seat held by Teresa Stroebe. She who won her first three-year term without opposition and is serving as board chairwoman.
All incumbents are eligible to file for re-election. Ideally, multiple good candidates will seek each seat to give voters positive choices for this important community service job.
Documents for filing are available at the school clerk's office on the second floor of Lincoln Education Center and at the County Elections Office on the first floor of the Yellowstone County Courthouse. Candidates must have lived for at least a year in the zone they seek to represent. There's no filing fee, but candidates must have a petition of support signed by at least 20 registered voters from their district for the District 4 and 6 seats, according to clerk Leo Hudetz. Just five signatures of registered Lockwood voters are required for that seat. Hudetz advises candidates to get a few extra signatures just to be sure they have enough when the signatures are verified against voter rolls.
Typically, there one or no candidates for School District 2 seats. And most of the few who file wait till the deadline day.
We encourage prospective candidates to file early and start getting up to speed on business of the board. Trustees are in the process of hiring a new superintendent and have chosen to leave the final selection to the new board - the nine trustees seated after the May election. Thus, trustees will make one of the most important decisions of their term in the first meeting after the election. They will need to hire an excellent superintendent. This isn't a decision that should be put off because the new leader will need to be on board in June.