By BRUCE MacINTYRE-Billings Chamber of Commerce
School District 2 board members have voted to place three levies on the ballot in May. After a great deal of research, the Billings Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors has unanimously voted to support the elementary mill levy and to further consider the two technology levies.
Billings has passed only one levy out of the past seven requests. The successful campaign was collaboration between the education and business communities, and entailed a substantial commitment, both financially as well as in volunteer-hours.
Why are levies needed?
At one time, state government funded 80 percent of education and the local communities funded the other 20 percent, through levies. Today, state government funds less than 50 percent of our educational fiscal needs. If this trend continues, greater and greater burden will be placed on the local taxpayer. Each time the School District asks voters to pass a levy, they are asking the voters to fund a cost of living increase and little else. This is why passing levies each year is vital.
What are levy requests this year?
Levy for Elementary (K-8) $1,809,323
This represents a 2.89 percent increase in funding for the elementary schools. Since we have not passed levies in six of seven years, lack of passage could very well mean cost cutting and substantial staffing reductions, since 91 percent of this levy would go to pay required salary increases. These increases are not an option. Without the additional levy, salaries still increase and these increases would have to be paid in staff reductions or cutting other costs. For a home with $100,000 taxable value, the tax increase would be $21.41.
In addition to the general elementary levy being endorsed by the Chamber/CVB Board, School District 2 will seek two technology levies. This would be an investment to give students the proper tools to learn the methods needed in the 21st century. These are training dollars for our future workforce.
Technology Levy for Elementary Schools $1,413,882
Technology Levy for High Schools $1,099,459
For a home with $100,000 taxable value, the tax increase will be $16.73 for the Elementary technology levy and $9.00 for the high school technology levy.
What should voters consider?
• Pay it forward. Members of the community in which you were raised paid to give you a good education. They paid it forward on the next generation, and now it is your turn. In Billings, only 18 percent of our voters have school-age children, so your vote is important.
• Talk to your friends and neighbors about the need to pass the elementary levy. It needs to pass annually, not just once in a while.
• Vote. This will be a mail-ballot election and voting couldn’t be simpler. All it takes is a couple of minutes and a first-class postage stamp!
We have a first-class, dedicated group of teachers, principals, administrators and support staff working diligently to give our children and grandchildren the best possible education.
Please consider giving them the tools to make it even better!
The Billings Chamber/CVB believes that education is a critical priority for a successful business community and strong quality of life for residents of Montana’s Trailhead. K-12 education is a 2009-2010 strategic priority issue. The Billings Chamber/CVB Board and staff are committed to working with School District 2 and the community to: develop a facilities plan; participate in the Budgeting for Results Committee; review bond and mill levy requests to determine the Chamber/CVB’s support; communicate with the community on funding; support Partners in Education and Junior Achievement; and, assist in recruitment of board members with business experience.