Education News

May 8, 2014 11:44 AM by Laura Wilson - KAJ News

Flathead school leaders react to bond election

KALISPELL - Voters were nearly split down the middle on most of the levy proposals in this year's Flathead County school elections.

Reporter Laura Wilson spoke with school officials to find out how election results will affect school districts' upcoming budgets.

Six levies were on Tuesday night's election ballots with half of the requests being approved by voters - but not by a lot.

Kalispell voters who came out in favor of the elementary technology levy had the edge over voters against it by only about half a percentage point.

"This one was closer than we have normally seen. It will offset half of the district costs, which is a help," Kalispell Schools Superintendent Darlene Schottle said.

Not all school boards got the outcome they were hoping for on Tuesday night, and the Marion School District was the only one unable to pass at least one of its proposed levies this year.

"I was worried whether it was going to pass or not because, in Marion, we're not a young family group up there. There's a lot of people that are older, retired, or snow birds. And, they may not understand the cost to educate a child in today's market," observed Marion School Board member Lily Brower.

Voters rejected both a general fund and technology levy, which would have helped offset a projected budget shortfall for next year.

"It was already tight. We were already saying, 'no we can't do this, and we can't do that.' We'll run a workshop or two and do what we have to do to make sure we balance. We have to balance the budget," Brower said.

Although Kalispell approved an elementary technology levy, they rejected the proposal in the high school district - meaning that four technology-related high school levies have been turned down over the last five years now.

"I don't know why it's always more of a challenge at the high school level. It's going to have a definite impact on the budget. It's not something we can do without," Schottle said.

"We need to find that money within the regular budget. Something else is either going to have to fall off the table, or we'll have to find other ways to create revenue in order to support technology," she added.

Voters in the Columbia Falls and Fair-Mont-Egan school districts approved their levy requests on Tuesday night. The school districts won't finalize their 2014-2015 budgets until later this summer.

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