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Written by The Herald-News Monday, 09 April 2012 14:40
The Wolf Point School board this week approved asking voters for two mill levy increases that school officials said are necessary to retain elementary programs and positions and to spruce up The Wolves’ Den.
The school board on Monday, April 2, also approved a list of elementary programs and positions to cut if the elementary mill levy request does not pass.
The school board also voted to implement fees to participate in sports, regardless of the outcome of either mill levy request.
A building reserve mill levy resolution unanimously approved by the school board Monday asks voters to approve a 21.59 mill levy increase to raise $150,000 more in local property taxes for the 2012-13 school year to finance the construction of a new gym floor and replace the bleachers inside the Wolf Point Junior/Senior High School gym, known as The Wolves’ Den.
Co-superintendent and high school principal Joe Paine said the two gym projects would cost more than $150,000, although he said there are sufficient existing high school building reserve funds to supplement the $150,000 mill levy increase and finance the two gym projects, if voters approve the building reserve mill levy.
Paine said the combined estimated costs of both projects last year was $375,000 to $400,000, adding the types of floors and bleacher options vary, as do their costs.
School officials said the gym floor is original to the high school constructed in 1969, while the bleachers have been replaced at least once, more than 22 years ago.
“We’ve heard concerns with the gym floor about safety,” Paine said.
Some parents have questioned if the floor’s condition has been a factor in recent student-athlete knee injuries.
Paine said there have been no direct links between injuries and the gym floor, although he said the floor’s deteriorating condition, particularly on the east end, is an area of concern.
If the building reserve mill levy is approved, Paine said construction of a new gym floor and installation of new bleachers would not occur until after the 2012-13 school year.
If the 21.59 building reserve fund mill levy is approved, property taxes would increase about $31.80 a year, or $2.65 per month, on a home with a market value of $100,000.
Property taxes would increase about $63.60 a year, or $5.30 per month, on a home with a market value of $200,000.
The proposed high school building reserve mill levy is only for the 2012-13 school year.
The school board on Monday also unanimously approved by a 4-0 vote a resolution asking voters to approve a permanent increase of 79.82 mills, begin- ning with the 2012-13 school year, to raise $300,000 more in local property taxes for the elementary general fund “for the purpose of general operations of the district.”
Co-superintendent Eileen Karge said the elementary general fund mill levy would “help get the budget in order for next year.”
“It won’t help everything, but it will help get us there,” Karge said.
If the 79.82 elementary general fund mill levy is approved, property taxes would increase about $117.55 a year, or $9.80 per month, on a home with a market value of $100,000.
Property taxes would increase about $235.11 per year, or $19.59 per month, on a home with a market value of $200,000.
The requested elementary general fund tax increase would be permanent if approved by voters, assuming the school district levies that amount each subsequent fiscal year.
“However, lowering over-base tax levies in any year will lower the amount of permissively overbase levies in subsequent years,” states the resolution language that will appear on ballots.
The school board on April 2 approved a list of programs and positions to be eliminated if the elementary general fund mill levy fails.
The positions approved for elimination were an elementary teacher at both Northside and Southside elementary schools, the school district’s school resource officer, a district-wide career counselor, a family/school coordinator at Southside, a paraprofessional at Southside and elementary field trip drivers for Northside, Southside and the junior high school.
The programs the school board approved eliminating in the event of an unsuccessful elementary general fund levy are band at Northside, Montana Shakespeare, lyceum enrichment programs and the Missoula Children’s theatre contract and stipend.
All Northside athletic programs and stipends paid to coaches would also be eliminated, with the exception of the sixth-grade track team that last week the school board approved adding to the junior high track program at no additional cost.
The Northside volleyball, and boys’ and girls’ basketball programs, would be eliminated because they require funding for elementary team coaches, school officials said.
Northside athletics already part of junior high athletic programs would not be affected.
Southside does not have sports programs and has few extracurricular activities, Karge said.
“We did discuss the possibility of eliminating junior high sports, by the way,” Karge told the school board. “We decided not to do that at this time.”
In total, the school board approved eliminating $287,491 of programs and positions if the elementary general fund levy fails.
“You can do with it what you like,” Karge said to the school board before it voted on the mill levies. “We are not bringing this with smiles at all. We’re already this year having a hard time.”
“I like the fact that we’re stating what the funds will be used for, if it passes,” said school board chairman Martin DeWitt.
Karge said the list of programs and staff to be eliminated will not be listed on mill levy ballots, but she said she and Paine would use the list to explain and advertise where mill levy dollars would be spent if the elementary general fund levy passes.
Regardless of the mill levy election results, the school board on Monday unanimously approved implementing a $50 fee to participate in sports at the junior high and high school levels.
School officials estimated implementing the $50 sports participation fee per student, per sport, will raise about $13,350 based on the average number of junior high and high school student-athletes.
Any team sponsorships and team fund-raising would not supplant student sports participation fees, Karge said.
The school district last year approved asking voters for an additional $300,000 for the elementary general fund budget and an additional $100,000 for the high school general fund budget.
The elementary mill levy was defeated by a 294-195 vote, while the high school mill levy was defeated, 323 to 211.