On Friday, Yellowstone County will mail about 80,000 ballots for the May 7 school elections. Districts throughout Montana will hold elections that day.
In Yellowstone County, ballots are being mailed Friday to all registered voters in districts that are holding elections. Six districts in the county are asking voters for tax increases. According to information filed with the Yellowstone County Elections office:
- Billings high school district requests a permanent, annual operating levy increase for $971,467, which would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $10 per year.
- Blue Creek school district requests a permanent, annual operating levy increase of $75,000, which would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $41 per year.
- Laurel public schools request an elementary building reserve levy of $400,000 for five years, which would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $25 a year. Laurel voters also are requested to approve a high school building reserve levy of $200,000 per year for five years, which would cost the owner of a $200,000 house about $13 a year.
- Broadview high school district requests a permanent, annual operating levy increase of $15,222, which would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $4 a year.
- Pioneer school district requests an permanent, annual operating levy increase of $16,135, which would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $24 per year.
- Shepherd elementary district requests approval to issue $8.9 million in 20-year bonds for construction of six new classsrooms and extensive remodeling of the over-capacity building. Shepherd high school district requests approval of $8.9 million in 20-year bonds for construction and remodeling of science and vo-tech classrooms, kitchen, cafeteria and library. Homeowners living in the Shepherd K-12 district would see an annual property tax increase of about $487 on a $200,000 home. A $200,000 home would have a tax increase of about $213 a year in the high-school only district, which includes the Pioneer Elementary District, according to the website www.weareshepherd.com.
May 7 is also the date set in state law for electing public school trustees. However, in Billings and many other school districts there's no contest. Three incumbent trustees are the only candidates who filed, so they are automatically elected and won't appear on the ballot. The job of public school trustee is difficult, time consuming, often thankless, but vitally important to our community. Trustees receive zero pay for the many hours per week that they may dedicate to leading their local school district.
Thanks to Billings Trustees Greta Besch Moen, Brian Yates and Scott McCulloch for their willingness to serve. Besch Moen was first appointed to the school board in 2010. Yates and McCulloch were appointed last year to fill mid-term vacancies. Even those of us who sometimes disagree with school board decisions, should recognize the service of trustees who dedicate themselves to the education of our nearly 17,000 K-12 students.
Billings trustees put a high school operating levy on the May 7 ballot, primarily to start replacing worn-out textbooks with updated digital/print books and other modern classroom equipment. The Billings Gazette encourages voters to say "yes" to the Billings high school levy. We also urge voters in smaller districts to support their local schools. Ballots must be returned to the elections office by May 7.