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Missoula County school districts set new mill rates; some rise while others fall

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Posted at 12:13 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 14:13:23-04

MISSOULA — Taxpayers in several Missoula County public school districts will see an increase in mills this fiscal year while those in other districts will see little change.

Commissioners on Tuesday approved the budgets for all public schools across the county, a move that wraps up the budgeting process for local taxing jurisdictions in the new fiscal year.

An increase in taxable values helped some districts reduce mills while others increased their mills to cover transportation costs, building bonds and special education.

“It looks pretty good,” said Erin Llpkind. “We’re not seeing significant increases in mills for most districts. The one thing you are seeing is because they passed bonds.”

Taxpayers in the Desmet District will see the largest increase in mills at 35.7, the bulk of which will cover debt service related to the passage of a new building bond.

Desmet and a handful of other districts, including Bonner, will also see an increase in the tuition fund due to an increase in the special education permissive levy.

“It’s something schools can opt for based on a very specific formula from the Office of Public Instruction for students who have special needs,” said Llpkind. “There are a few districts where you see sometimes even a fairly significant amount of money.”

Of the 14 districts across the county, five will see their mills increase, the largest being Desmet, Bonner, and Hellgate school districts. Aside from bonds and an increase in the special ed permissive levy, mills also went up in the transportation fund.

But funding from the state helped offset the increase in the transportation fund for some districts, Llpkind said.

“It would have been a lot worse if they hadn’t seen an offset in money from the governor,” she said. “The governor provided additional money for districts that need it if they needed to increase the number off routes they’re running to reduce the number of students on the bus because of COVID.”

The Frenchtown school district will see the largest reduction in mills at 10.5, largely due to additional funding resulting from an increase in taxable values. The Missoula school district will see a decrease of 2.6 mills for elementary schools and 4.9 mills for high schools.