Belgrade School Board Trustees discussed the ins and outs of asking voters for a mill levy at Monday night’s scheduled board meeting.
Belgrade Schools Superintendent Candy Lubansky laid out various funding scenarios the district could ask voters to approve this May with a levy. She also talked about what the levy money would buy the district.
In the elementary school district, five new teachers must be hired to accommodate the rapid growth. District-wide, Belgrade needs a new nurse to help the one full-time nurse accommodate students’ health needs.
After voters failed to pass a levy last spring, Lubansky was forced to make reductions in many sectors, including lunchroom helpers, playground aides and custodians. Those positions must be filled this year, Lubansky said.
The staff needed to keep the burgeoning elementary school district afloat. The cost is more than district will receive in state funding this year. The Office of Public Instruction released its budget for state schools on March 1.
Because of the enrollment surge in Belgrade, the elementary district will receive $372,000 in Annual Number Belonging money. ANB money is given directly based on the number of students in each district. OPI recorded Belgrade’s enrollment three times over the past year to keep the most accurate count for ANB dollars.
District clerk Jay Bates said that money isn’t “extra in the coffers” and “it’s already spent for the most part.”
To hire the additional teachers, nurse, custodians, lunchroom and playground aides, trustees will ask elementary district voters for a levy ranging from $524,000 at the baseline, to the maximum amount allowable, $711,849.
Trustee Bob Marx said the district needs to regain trust with the voters and shouldn’t ask for maximum levy amounts.
“As a board, we have to show some good faith effort with our taxpayers and that isn’t going for the max,” he said.
Lubansky and Bates both pointed out that with the district refinancing its bonds, taxpayers will enjoy a $545,000 refund. In the high school district, Lubansky said she doesn’t feel a levy is needed this year. In that case, taxpayers in the high school district will actually receive a tax credit.
Lacy DeQuattro, a Belgrade parent and member of the mill levy committee, said she has talked to parents and voters who support asking for the maximum amounts.
“I just think as a parent and taxpayer, I would like to see our schools well-equipped,” DeQuattro said. “Teachers are so overwhelmed, kids are falling through the cracks.”
With $711,849, the district could afford a host of necessities, DeQuattro said.
“We’re doing the best with what we have…” she said. “We’re making due. But why struggle if we could make it a little easier?”
DeQuattro and the mill levy committee have been meeting almost weekly since January to find ways to talk to the community about the district’s needs. The 21-person group started a website: Belgradeschoollevy.org.
The site gives general information about general fund levies and the Belgrade School District. Voters can find the market value of their home and links to news around the schools.
Trustees will decide on the final mill levy amount at a special school board meeting Monday at 7 a.m. At that meeting, Bates will update trustees and the mill levy committee about the taxes voters would pay for the levy.