School elections are being held today across Montana to elect school board trustees and vote on property tax issues, and in Gallatin County most polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m.
More than 6,600 people on the permanent absentee voter list have already voted by mail or walk-in voting in the Bozeman School District, where tax levies are on the ballot, Superintendent Kirk Miller said Monday. That's a turnout of 65 percent so far.
In Belgrade, no taxes are on the ballot - voters already approved a $12 million bond issue in a special March election to build a new school, and officials promised then not to ask for an annual tax increase this year. However, five candidates running for two Belgrade School Board seats are on the ballot. They are Joy Dewel, Ed Guza, Davey Lynn Haglund, John Palm and Scott Thorn.
Elections are also being held by the Anderson, Manhattan elementary and high school, Gallatin Gateway, Three Forks, LaMotte, Ophir, Willow Creek, Three Forks and West Yellowstone districts.
In the Bozeman School District, voters are being asked to approve two annual tax levies, to raise roughly $325,000 to run the elementary schools and high school for the coming year. Because of actions by the Legislature, taken after the ballots were printed, the maximum tax the School Board can actually approve in August will be lower than the $450,000 maximum listed on the ballots.
For property owners living in both the Bozeman elementary and high school districts, taxes on a home with a state-assessed market value of $100,000 would increase by $1.25 a year if both measures pass - 60 cents in the elementary and 65 cents in the high school district.
However, those homeowners would still see local school taxes decline by about $1.55, mainly because a $500,000 tax levy is expiring. The $500,000 levy was approved by voters to last just two years to pay costs of opening the new Hyalite School.
If voters reject the annual tax levies, homeowners' property taxes would decline by about $1.25 more.
Though the dollar amounts are small, Miller and Bozeman School Board members have visited about 40 parent and community groups, urging a yes vote. Even if the tax measures pass, officials must cut spending by $1.7 million next year and are eliminating five jobs at the high school.
Only three candidates filed to run for the three openings on the Bozeman School Board, so they have been elected by acclamation, as allowed by state law. Elected to another term are two incumbents, physical therapist Gary Lusin and Junior Achievement director Heide Arneson, and a newcomer, Dan Swanson, who works for TechLink and has children in Anderson School and Bozeman High. Swanson will represent the rural school districts that send their teenagers to Bozeman High. Trustees serve without pay for three-year terms.
Bozeman School District voters who haven't yet cast ballots can do so in the Willson School gym, Gallatin Gateway School library (Gateway and Cottonwood voters), Anderson School, Monforton School or LaMotte School (LaMotte and Malmborg voters).
Belgrade voters can drop off mail ballots by 8 p.m. at 312 N. Weaver St. in Belgrade or the Gallatin County election office, 311 W. Main St., Bozeman.
Other voters vote at their local schools. For more information, contact the county superintendent of schools office, 582-3090.
Gail Schontzler can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2633.