FRENCHTOWN- The Frenchtown School District will be asking community members to vote on an operational levy on the May 2, 2023, election ballot.
The levy will ask for $513,551 in extra funding.
The money would go towards building operation and technology costs, extra programming and teacher and support staff salaries.
Frenchtown has not received additional general operation funds from voters since 2007, so its budget for operational costs has remained the same for the past 14 years.
“Since I’ve been here for 34 years, we’ve not gone to the voters often to ask them for money," Elaina Blass, who has taught music in the Frenchtown School District for 34 years. "I feel like fiscally we’re really responsible at Frenchtown, so when we do go to the voters, there is a need.”
The levy would increase property taxes on a home worth $200,000 by $7.75 monthly, or $93 annually.
The extra funding would go towards building costs, such as heating, electricity and cleaning.
Superintendent Les Meyer says Frenchtown Elementary School, for example, is an old building that would benefit from renovations.
“Over here on the elementary side, last year we maybe had three or four rooms that didn’t have any heat in them, and now that number is up to six or seven rooms," he says.
The money could also increase teacher salaries and work to retain experienced teachers.
It could also increase starting wages for teachers and support staff to remain competitive with nearby districts.
Meyer says, like most school districts, Frenchtown has been struggling with too few support staff, such as paraeducators, janitors and cafeteria employees.
Meyer also mentioned increasing benefits like health insurance can help to retain teachers.
Blass says it is hard for Frenchtown to remain a competitive employer with other large districts nearby.
"We want to keep quality teachers, and one way to keep quality teachers is to continue offering good salaries to them, competitively, because we live close to Missoula," Blass says.
Blass says Frenchtown prides itself on providing a variety of academic and extracurricular programs for its students, including pre-K education, FFA, arts and music.
The operational levy would go towards these programs.
Meyer says if they do not receive the extra funding, they will have to reevaluate which programs are most important.
"When you do that you begin to pit programs against programs and you get to pit people against people, and it's not good for morale," he says.
Other consequences will be continued building and mechanical issues, staff shortages and poor teacher retention.
Meyer says if the levy does not pass this year, they will likely continue to try and pass it in the coming years.
"It's more of a need than a want," he says.
More information on this levy or how to vote can be found here.