The Belgrade School District is reeling after voters shot down two levies that would have funded new positions in the high school and new Saddle Peak Elementary School.
Belgrade School Board Chairman Lance Voegele said there will be tough consequences because of the failed levy.
“This means there will be teachers we won’t be able to hire,” Voegele said. “We won’t be able to offer the whole education package. It’s kind of depressing.”
Of the 10,895 voters deciding on the levies, 3,466 returned their ballots in time to be counted for the elementary school levy. Roughly 41 percent of voters supported the elementary levy while 59 percent opposed.
For the high school levy, 3,509 people returned their ballots. A few more voters endorsed the levy, about 45 percent, but not enough to pass it. Fifty-five percent, 1,943 people, voted against it.
Turnout was about 32 percent. The low voter response was sad, Superintendent Candy Lubansky said.
“We looked at both with and without levy scenarios,” Lubansky said. “Now we have to flesh out the without scenario. We have to have teachers, so we’re going to juggle things and look (for money) in every nook and cranny.”
Lubansky said teachers and administrators were sad Wednesday after hearing the news.
“I don’t understand,” Lubansky said. “I want to know why. Why didn’t these pass?”
To staff Saddle Peak Elementary School, which opens in the fall, the district needed to hire six teachers and employees such as cooks and crossing guards.
Because the Montana Office of Public Instruction sets caps on classroom size, the district can’t keep piling kids into classrooms or they will fall out of mandatory accreditation standards.
Money to fund those positions must come from somewhere. Lubansky said no cuts have been made yet, but if a position in the district is vacated, it’s possible it won’t be filled.
“Of course we will try to keep those reductions away from the classroom,” Lubansky said. “This is already a really lean district. But who’s gonna believe that; our levies just failed.”
At the Belgrade School Board meeting Monday, Lubansky said officials will discuss how to staff Saddle Peak.
Voegele said the district must move forward, levy or not.
“Now we have to do the best we can with the money we have,” he said. “I just wish the best for the kids.”