Local Election Guide: Seeley Lake Elementary General Fund Levy Vote For / Against
April 15, 2021
Ballots for the Seeley Lake Elementary General Levy election were mailed April 14 to all registered voters in Seeley Lake Elementary District #34. The Missoula County Elections Office encourages voters to mail their ballot with plenty of time to meet the May 4 deadline, postmarks not accepted. There will be a ballot drop off at Seeley Lake Elementary on May 4 from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
For more information visit the Missoula County Elections Office (https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/administration/elections-office) or call 406-258-4751.
Tax Increase: Passing the general fund levy would impose an increase in local taxes to support Seeley Lake Elementary’s general fund by $42,687.54.
“I just want people to understand that we’re not running this levy to try to increase what we currently have, although it will increase [the budget] by about $3,000,” SLE Superintendent Josh Gibbs said. “But this levy will put us right where we are at. So it allows us to continue what we’re already doing without having to make severe cuts.”
District #34 taxpayers would see an increase of approximately $6.48 for a $100,000 home, $12.96 for a $200,000 home and $19.44 for a $300,000 home annually.
Why the need? Declining enrollment has impacted SLE’s budget. Each school receives funding from the state based on their Average Number Belonging (ANB), the student count reported to the Office of Public Instruction.
The school saw a steady increase in their student population until 2019 when the school saw a 34 student drop off in two years going from 177 to 143 in 2021. Gibbs believes a number of factors are involved in the decline including parents choosing to homeschool their kids during COVID-19 rather than opting in for SLE’s remote option.
He also attributes the decline to smaller family units, older families without children moving into Seeley Lake and an overall decrease in K-8 public school enrollment across Montana.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen announced at the end of November that Montana saw a 3.8% decrease in K-8 public school enrollment and an increase of 2.1% public high school enrollment for a cumulative decrease of 1.8% public school enrollment.
Gibbs said if the levy does not pass, the school would need to make up the difference by cutting back faculty hours and/or making alterations to several of their programs. Programs that could be potentially affected include transitional kindergarten, athletic activities and field trips. He said cost increases for aspects like supplies and insurance rates are always expected so it is important to make sure the school’s budget is on track.
Gibbs wanted to clarify that while the school did receive money from the state for COVID-19 impacts, the money must go towards expenses directly related to the pandemic. The money is not allowed to go towards items for which the school has previously budgeted.