Building Reserve Levy on Ballot

By Beacon Staff

On March 22, School District 5 in Kalispell will present voters with a nearly $6-million, five-year building reserve levy election in another attempt to pay for operational costs after a similar levy failed in 2009.

The levy would allocate $1,195,700 to the school district each year for the next five years. According to Superintendent Darlene Schottle, the district needs the funds to repair facilities and bring Flathead High School up to fire code.

The money would support Glacier and Flathead high schools, the Linderman Education Center, the VoAg Center, the central office warehouse and the district’s print shop and support services, totaling 637,000 square feet of building space and 87 acres of school property.

Of these areas, building repairs include masonry, windows, floors, boilers, long-term roof repair plans, biomass boiler maintenance and outdoor facility maintenance.

In a letter to the Beacon, Schottle acknowledged the tough economic timing for the building reserve levy, but urged voters to consider the proposal after the levy failed in 2009.

“There is no good time for a levy, but there is no greater need for our childrens’ educational future than now,” Schottle wrote. “This is a renewal of a five year levy that we have used for building upkeep since 1982. Your community assets, our schools, need to be maintained.”

According to School District 5, there is no state funding in place for major facility repairs, and the annual cost increased from 2009 after the Kalispell Fire Department determined that Flathead High School was not up to code.

The current levy would cost $28.80 for homes with an assessed market value of $100,000 and $57.60 for homes with $200,000 assessed market value.

If voters approve the levy, Flathead High School will receive $2,915,000 worth of repairs over the next five years; Glacier High School will receive $485,000; the Linderman Alternative Education Center will receive $375,000; Legends Stadium will get $125,000; and the administrative building will get $100,000.

A new fire suppression system would be the biggest cost in the building improvement budget, taking 26 percent of the funds.

If the levy does not pass, Schottle said the school district would have to make deeper cuts into the general fund than expected.

“Some of the recurring costs like the annual fees for Internet access, phone lines, security services and software must be paid, one way or the other, and these costs would take an additional $400,000 out of the general fund which would mean additional reductions in other areas,” Schottle wrote.

In an interview, Schottle said the fire department has been working closely with the school district, and would allow the district to get up to code in steps if necessary. There are basic aspects of the fire suppression system that would be mandatory, Schottle said, such as emergency lighting.

Schottle said the district is also watching the Legislature closely to see how education funding will affect Kalispell schools’ overall budget picture.

School District 5 asked the public to participate in the budget cut decision-making process by filling out a survey of financial prioritization.

One of the aspects survey participants highlighted was energy savings, Schottle said, which is something the building reserve levy would address through more efficient windows, boilers and insulation.

Survey participants also asked the school district to look at how the administration is organized, and Schottle said the district intends to do some reorganizing and restructuring in that area.

Schottle said she would present the survey findings and budget reduction recommendations to the school board on March 15, and post the results online later in the week.

For more information on the building reserve levy and voting locations, visit the school district’s website at www.sd5.k12.mt.us.

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