School Levies Pass in Kalispell, Columbia Falls

By Beacon Staff

An elementary technology levy in Kalispell and a high school funding levy in Columbia Falls passed by small margins in Tuesday’s school elections. A levy, however, to fund new technology in Kalispell’s high schools failed by more than 200 votes.

The Kalispell School District was seeking $1.2 million for technology improvements over the next decade, split evenly between the elementary and high schools. The $600,000 elementary school levy passed by just 32 votes, with 2,896 votes for and 2,864 votes against. The $600,000 high school technology levy failed by 248 votes, with 5,797 votes for and 6,045 votes against.

The high school district has not had a technology levy in three years and the elementary district’s levy is ending this year. Voters approved a five-year, $2.8 million technology and building reserve levy for the elementary district in 2010. A similar $6 million request for the high schools was shot down in 2011, with 4,630 voters opposed and 2,975 in favor. A year later, the district tried again, proposing a five-year, $4.12 million building reserve levy that would have addressed technology issues in the high schools. The levy fell short, but by a much narrower margin: 3,929 opposed and 3,728 in favor.

Mike Kofford, community outreach coordinator for the Kalispell schools, said he was pleased that the elementary levy passed but was disappointed that the high school levy didn’t find the same success.

“We’re going to have to reassess our budget and do the best we can moving forward,” he said. “We’ll have to be frugal.”

In Columbia Falls, a $478,984 high school levy will help balance the books and pay for everyday classroom needs. In the last five years, the general fund budget for Columbia Falls High School has shrunk by more than $420,000 because the state funding formula based on enrollment. Columbia Falls High School recently saw an enrollment drop of one student, from 691 to 690, and as a result lost $45,603 in state funding.

The high school levy passed by 59 votes, with 983 in favor and 924 against.

“We’re just really, really relieved that we’ll be in a position to continue offering quality learning opportunities to our students,” said Columbia Falls Superintendent Mike Nicosia.

School board seats were also up for grabs in last night’s election. Incumbent Frank Miller and Bette Albright earned seats on the elementary school board, beating out Lance Isaak. On the high school side, incumbent Jack Fallon kept his seat representing Evergreen and Helena Flats, beating Tony Brockman.

Flathead Valley Community College also had a board of trustees’ election on Tuesday night. Thomas K. Harding and John M. Phelps, both of Whitefish, were both elected to serve three-year terms representing the Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Bigfork school districts.

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