One of the great advantages of public education is also its disadvantage. It’s public so, thereby, it’s publicly funded as well. This is how most of our public institutions that form the bedrock of our communities are structured and public input, often in the form of paying taxes, is critical in maintaining equitable access to all, ensuring transparency, and providing accountability. The disadvantage is that public school systems rely on a mix of local, state, and federal dollars, and when it comes to local funds, many of these requests fail even when they’re critically needed.
When a school asks for money, in the form of a levy on the taxable value of a property, some taxpayers only tune into the word “tax” and refuse to look at the bigger picture that school levies are a wise, long-term investment that benefit students, parents and entire communities. The last year Kalispell voters approved a public school levy for the high school was 2007. Was U.S. Highway 93 between Whitefish and Kalispell even four lanes? Now, the high school has another levy on the ballot.
Kalispell voters are asked to approve a $1.5 million general high school fund levy to help the district fund costs related to education and operations. Admittedly, I’ve never been great at math and if you’d like to verify, you can ask Mr. Fry at Boyne City High School and he’ll likely confirm. However, I do grasp two significant figures: enrollment at Kalispell high schools has grown exponentially since 2007 and $1.5 million is not that big of a number when its shared by a community to support its award-winning school system.
So, why should you invest in the high schools? I asked a friend, whose stepchildren were raised in Minnesota, how she views the levy. She and her husband have lived in Kalispell for decades and own a business, too. This levy is important to them because they want our community to have opportunities for growth and prosperity. They know that businesses are attracted to places with a strong public school system. Although my friend is in favor of the levy, she also understands that it’s a hard sell, because it’s an additional cost. She commented that if you’re on a fixed income and your kids are grown it is a tricky ask. Yet, she knows that everyone benefits when public schools are supported by local tax dollars.
There are so many advantages to approving this levy, and communities that have a robust public education system have long reaped the benefits of this investment. Let’s not allow the phrase “more taxes” place our high schools at a disadvantage. On May 3, please join me in voting yes for the high school general fund levy.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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