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By Andi Bourne

Local School Districts Make Plans for Levied Funds


HELENA - One of the final bills the Montana Legislature passed before adjourning created a special state fund for major public school repairs. Senate Bill 307 allows school trustees to adopt a resolution to increase non-voted levies to appropriate funds to four major categories: major maintenance and repair; technology; energy efficiencies and critical infrastructure. Both the Seeley Lake Elementary (SLE) and Swan Valley Elementary School (SVES) boards passed the resolution and will use the additional funds for various infrastructure improvements and transportation costs.

SB307 requires the school boards to pass a resolution each year by March 31 to continue the levy increase. The resolution allows for $32,800 more revenue at SLE to be used for school facility maintenance and technology projects at SLE. This is a mill increase of 4.27. Taxpayers in Seeley Lake School District 34 will see a tax increase of $5.59 on a home valued at $100,000 or $11.18 on a $200,000 home for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The bill had already passed the Legislature, but the governor returned it to the House with a different reporting date. The House voted to pass the original bill by a wide margin and the Senate passed it unanimously. The House voted 78-21 on the final version of the bill.

With funds already set aside in the building reserve fund, SLE will be able to complete several projects.

SLE is using this year’s funding to pave the parking lot and possibly include the basketball court. Out of four companies that bid the project, JD Parker came in the lowest with the project costing around $40,000.

The parking lot will be paved in asphalt and will include a drainage system to remove excess water off the surface. The project will be complete this summer.

“This is a 20-year project. Once it is done, it’s done,” said SLE and SVES Superintendent Chris Stout. “We are looking at things that are going to last for some time.”

SLE will also purchase a portable computer lab for the junior high wing. This will include 22 Chromebooks and cost $5,000.

While SLE already has a portable computer lab, SLE Superintendent Chris Stout said part of the issue is transporting them and the wear and tear on the cart.

“It will be great to have one in the junior high because right now they have to schedule it between 10 other teachers,” said Stout. “Now it will just be between [teachers] Patti [Bartlett] and Duane [Schlabach].”

The tile flooring in the kitchen will be replaced to bring that back up to code. Any additional funds will be used to remodel and update some of the classrooms and purchase new furniture.

At SVES, the resolution allocates $2,196 for transportation and $17,900 to the building reserve funds. This is a total mill increase of 6.85. Taxpayers will see an increase of $7.11 on a home valued at $100,000 or $18.51 on a $200,000 home.

Stout said the levy increase will be put towards a construction project to enclose the walkway between the two buildings and move the front door to the front of the school.

“The walkway is a safety issue for two reasons. One, a physical safety issue is because of the way the snow falls. It’s also a safety issue because it will physically connect the two buildings as opposed to the open-air where any one can come and go,” said Stout.

Stout added the front door would be better for flow of visitors because they would come right to the office instead of the current set up where visitors have to walk all the way through the school to get to the office.

Since this project has not been bid yet, Stout does not have a cost estimate. However, he assumes it will be a multi-phase project. He would like to start construction this year, however, many of the contractors who have done work at the school in the past are already booked for the summer.

This does not concern Stout since the funds do not have to be spent this year.

Stout said, “I’m excited. It will be kind of nice to get some of these big projects knocked off that you know will be lasting longer than you in duration.”


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