Decision 2011: Election delivers financial blow

Voters deny district’s $998,000 levy

On May 3, Great Falls voters weighed in on a $998,000 mill levy, and for the Great Falls Public School District the result was far from desirable.

The high school and elementary levies both failed by a margin of more than 1,500 votes. 

According to the Cascade County Elections Office, of the 25,000 ballots sent out to registered voters, 12,600 of them had been received by mid-Tuesday morning. All additional ballots were dropped off at the election office or cast on Tuesday at the Montana Expo Park.

After hearing the result, CMR Principal Dick Kloppel reacted by saying, “I am disappointed and somewhat saddened by the results. The general palpable atmosphere in the community was negative.”

 “There is the perception out there that the district has fat, and the bottom line is that the levy was going to support vital organs,” he said. “When the levy is needed to hire English teachers, science teachers, literacy teachers—those are all vital organs.”

Aside from the sheer numbers and the new reality of a failed levy, Kloppel said he is disturbed by voter attitude.

“More than one half of the voters say they support education, but in actuality they really don’t,” Kloppel said.

Kloppel said that in years past the district has levied funds and in the spirit of fiscal responsibility only used part of the funding.

“A few years ago we levied 19 mills and only used five of them. That ends up coming back to haunt us because our budget is based on what we use,” he said. “Had we used more, we would have more budget to work with. I guess it shows you that our frugality has even caused us to take a hit.”

Reflecting on the new reality of two failed levies, Kloppel is thoughtful.

“I don’t understand the perception that our district doesn’t use money wisely.”

School board members chosen

Great Falls voters denied the high school and elementary levies which together amounted to $998,000 on May 3, and also elected four new trustess to the school board. The voters turned down the elementary levy by 9474-7985, and the  high school levy by 9500-7993.

Mary Moe, Jan Cahill, and Bob Moretti were elected to the three four-year terms, and Johnny Walker was elected to the one-year term. Somewhat ironically, each of the trustees elected Tuesday supported the mill levy.

All candidates had the chance to interact with the public at a student-led forum April 19 at Cameron Auditorium on the Benefis campus. The American Association of University Women sponsered the event, at which student journalists from Great Falls High and CMR questioned the candidates.

For more election-related coverage, see page 6 of the May 5 issue.