KALISPELL – There’s no doubt the Flathead Valley is booming with both commercial and residential growth, but despite that the Kalispell Public School Elementary District hasn’t seen an increase in its operational costs since 2012.
With a new elementary school currently under construction, and a budget reduction of more than $350,000 due to statewide budget cuts, the district is seeking a levy for $1 million for its operations.
School officials were notified in mid-March their request for a typical mail-in ballot for the upcoming elementary general fund levy was denied due to a missed deadline. Now, the district will be running a traditional vote.
Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau says it’s an opportunity for the community to get out and vote.
"We only run a levy when it’s needed," Flatau said. "And the last time that we ran a levy and it was approved was 2012, six years ago, and we have continued to grow significantly over the last 10 to 15 years."
According to census data, Flathead County’s population grew by 2.4 percent between 2016 to 2017. That growth helped the district successfully pass an elementary and high school bond in 2016 to build a new elementary school and update existing ones.
Construction on Rankin Elementary was fast-tracked due to overcrowding in the other five elementary schools in the district. This fall it will welcome more than 350 kids. But with significant reductions in state funding and the continued growth of local schools, Flatau says the general fund levy is needed to bridge a funding gap.
"I refer to our general fund as the meat and potatoes. It’s the bread and butter of our daily operational support," he said. "It pays for teachers. It pays for text books. It pays for teaching supplies. It pays for lights water. It runs the school on a day-to-day basis."
Flatau says the levy will cost about $2.06 for a $100,000 home.
If passed, the levy will provide support in opening the new Rankin Elementary School.
On Tuesday, May 8, all voters may cast their ballot at the Flathead County Fairground’s Country Kitchen. It will be the final polling opportunity for the levy.
Registered absentee voters in the Kalispell Elementary School District will still receive a mail-in ballot the week of April 16.
Starting April 18 and through May 7, all registered voters may take advantage of early voting at the school district offices from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.