Laurel superintendent Linda Filpula

Laurel superintendent Linda Filpula looks at land to the west of South Elementary School that could be used for the district's Laurel High School Career and Technical Campus on Friday, September 22, 2017.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

On Wednesday, the Yellowstone County elections office will mail 78,626 ballots — one to every registered voter. November of odd-numbered years always brings municipal government elections; this year’s election on Nov. 7 also includes public safety and school issues in Yellowstone County.

Members of The Billings Gazette editorial board have invited all 12 candidates for Billings City Council to discuss their views with us. Continuing a longstanding practice, the editorial board will offer recommendations to voters on these candidates.

Why do Gazette editorial board members take the time to meet with these candidates? And why are there endorsements?

Most of the candidates on the Billings ballot are making their first bids for public office. In our growing city of 110,000, most voters don’t know these folks personally. The Gazette staff works to learn about the candidates and share information with readers. It’s often hard to decide which candidate would be the better council member, but that is the choice each voter must make, so the editorial board weighs in, too.

This year’s Billings City Council election drew a larger-than-usual field of candidates and a better-than-expected turnout for the September primary. The 12 candidates who proceeded to the Nov. 7 election have demonstrated a remarkable degree of civility and respect for their opponents in the campaign so far. They are commended for focusing on relevant city issues and their own leadership abilities.

During the next week, the Opinion page will present our recommendations on the Billings City Council. We want to remind readers of the other important issues on the Nov. 7 ballots:

  • An increase in the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office levy that would help the prosecutor’s office keep up with the tremendous growth in child abuse and neglect, other criminal cases and involuntary mental health care commitments. The cost of the proposed levy increase would be about $10.80 per year on a $100,000 house. The levy would raise about $2.7 million annually.
  • In the Laurel school district, bonds to build a new elementary school, renovate a building to provide career and technical education and improve the high school and elementary school buildings. Laurel’s student population has been growing faster than projected. The ballot includes a proposal for K-8 district bonds and a proposal for high school bonds. Combined, the two issues total $52.5 million and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $125 a year in taxes.
  • In the Lockwood school district, voters are being asked if they want to consider expanding their present K-8 school district into a K-12 district. There is no cost estimate for such an expansion. If the majority votes yes, Lockwood school leaders will have two years to make a plan to build and operate a high school, bring that plan along with cost and tax increase information back to voters and ask them to approve it.
  • Laurel voters will elect a mayor and city council members.
  • Broadview voters will elect a town council member, although there are no names on the ballot.

Turnout generally is lower for local elections, yet these are the choices that affect our lives every day. Voters are encouraged to learn about their candidates and research the ballot issues. If you need more information about your school district issues, call your Laurel or Lockwood trustees or your local school superintendent. If you have questions about the county attorney levy, contact a Yellowstone County commissioner or read the commission’s guest opinion from Sunday’s Opinion page.

Get engaged in the Nov. 7 election — the election that hits closest to home for all of us.

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