Lone Rock School District to seek mill levy

MICHELLE McCONNAHA

Ravalli Republic

LONE ROCK – The Lone Rock School District will put a 5 percent general fund mill levy before voters on May 6.

The increased funding would allow the school to sustain programs at the present level, as well as add increased security for students.

Roger Samples, superintendent of Lone Rock School District No. 13, says the levy is the first general fund levy the district has run.

“We’ve never run a general fund levy here and we are at the bottom of the valley in terms of funding – we are still running at 80 percent,” said Samples.

The state of Montana does not fully fund schools. The Legislature only pays schools 80 percent of what they need to operate (based on student enrollment). Legislators expect schools to find income from other sources – such as local taxpayers – to reach 100 percent.

Less funding from state and federal programs, and reduced grants combined with increased costs, has Lone Rock making tough decisions – and asking local taxpayers to support the levy.

“If it doesn’t pass, [the budget] will be modified,” said Samples. “These are things that we value. We’d have to adjust. We can’t sustain programs at the proper levels the way it has been done.”

The list of what the state does not fund but what Lone Rock finds valuable include: maintaining small class sizes, middle school ski program, arts, music, athletics, libraries, nurses, counselors, maintenance, utilities and insurance.

Operation of the new school’s gym is on the list.

“The new gym costs $1,500 month to light and heat, plus custodial staff that hadn’t been budgeted for, and we need to find a way to sustain it,” the superintendent said.

Security is another item on the list.

“Here there are so many keys floating around,” said Samples. “We would install a key system so we can lock our buildings down and keep them secure.”

He said they would also look at a future redesign of the front of their building, rather than having the office staff unable to monitor who enters.

Samples said that taxpayers may be worried about the cost to them now and in the future.

“This is a levy with a 5 percent cap and cannot be increased without a public vote,” he said. “This levy isn’t open ended – not like others they may have heard about where once the school gets a levy they can increase it every year. That is not what we have, we would have to ask them.”

Taxes would be paid by those living in the Lone Rock School District.

For example, a house valued at $50,000 would see a monthly increase of $1.38 or a yearly increase of $16.62. Another example would be a house valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $2.77 per month for a total of $33.24 additional taxes per year.

Samples believes the increased taxes will be money well spent.

“We’ve consistently had our kids be the valedictorians and salutatorians – which attests to the quality of education they get here.”

The Lone Rock School District No. 13 will be having general fund mill levy information meetings April 9 and April 23, in the school gymnasium, 1112 Three Mile Creek Road, Stevensville, at 6:30 p.m.

“As a district, we’re not allowed to promote it – we are giving out information and hopefully people can read between the lines,” said Samples. “We have a citizens committee supporting the levy.”

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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