Voters on Tuesday rejected a $1.2 million general fund levy request for the Kalispell public high school district, with the majority of residents in the elementary district approving it but residents in the outlying partner districts voting against it.
The high school district hasn’t passed a general fund levy, which funds day-to-day operations, in 12 years. The levy had received unanimous support from the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s board.
Administrators said the request was necessary to address a budget deficit and avoid cutting $1.2 million out of a budget that had already endured nearly $900,000 in cuts over the last two years.
In an email to staff, Kalispell Superintendent of Schools Mark Flatau said he was “sad to report” news of the levy’s failure. Flatau said the district’s administrative team meets Wednesday for its regular monthly meeting and “will begin the arduous task of trimming 1.2 million” from the high school budget for the 2019-2020 school year.
Flatau said the unofficial vote tally was 7,249 against and 6,008 for the levy. There were 13,340 votes cast out of 37,737 registered voters in Kalispell’s high school district, a 35 percent turnout in the all-mail election.
The estimated tax impact on a median assessed $275,000 home would have been just under $3 per month, or $35 per year.
The levy denial affects both Glacier and Flathead high schools, as well as the Linderman Education Center and Agricultural Education Center. The levy funds would have gone toward technology, curriculum, activities, individualized and technical learning, and safety and security.
Also on the ballot were two trustee elections. In the elementary district, Sue Corrigan defeated Rebecca Linden 3,500 votes to 1,709. In the high school district, April Snell defeated Anna Marie Bailey 806 votes to 784.
In addition to the administrative team convening on Wednesday, the board of trustees has a finance committee meeting on Friday morning, and Flatau said the board will likely “also begin to wrestle with this budget deficit.”
“Please know we will work to make reductions with the least impact on our classrooms,” Flatau said, “but this will be a challenging task.”
Voters in Whitefish approved a $50,975 elementary district general fund levy, as well as a $321,600 elementary technology levy and a $158,400 high school technology levy. The elementary tech levy includes $232,602 just voted in, plus $88,998 in effect since 2007. The high school tech levy includes $82,887 just voted in, plus $75,513 in effect since 2007.
The general fund levy passed with a healthy margin, with 1,482 voters in favor and 1,041 against. The elementary tech levy passed 1,353 to 1,199, while the high school tech levy passed 1,477 to 1,209.
There were 2,727 ballots cast out of 11,888 registered voters, a 23 percent turnout. In trustee elections, Nick Polumbus was reelected, while Darcy Schellinger was elected to a first term.
Voters in the Marion school district overwhelmingly rejected a $112,000 general fund levy (171 against and 97 for) and a $90,250 tech levy (170 against and 99 for).
Voters in the West Valley school district rejected a $200,000 general fund levy with 784 voting against and 564 in favor. The rapidly growing school district has cited an array of needs to help keep pace with growth.
Voters in the Evergreen school district rejected a $295,000 general fund levy with 352 no votes and 263 yes votes. The district, which hasn’t passed a general fund levy since 2005, has cited needs in food services, classrooms, salaries and benefits for staff, technology and its school resource officer.
In Evergreen’s trustee elections, incumbents Dave Lowitz and Tamara Williams were reelected. Brant Karlstad was the third candidate vying for the two seats.
Voters in the Helena Flats school district voted down a $65,000 general fund levy with 245 against and 218 in favor.