Up again this year are requests for additional mill levy funding for the operation of the schools. The trustees are asking for $73,000 to “address anticipated shortfalls” in the elementary budget and $98,000 for the high school. In addition to this they are also asking for $370,000 to be assessed at $185,000 each of the next two years. This “reserve” money is to be added to the big pool of cash reserves already on account to pay for such things as the high school roof repair, remodeling of the high school locker rooms, upkeep of the streets and parking lot at the high school and other miscellaneous building repairs. The school’s official propaganda brochure can be viewed here One thing interestingly pointed out in the official propaganda brochure is that the building reserve fund will not affect the taxes you currently pay because – you guessed it – you have already been paying this amount every year for years and years. What they fail to mention is that a no vote on the reserve fund would actually decrease your property tax. How much is already in that reserve account you may ask? Well as near as we can find out the school district currently holds between 7 and 8 million dollars in reserve just in case there is an emergency sort of like if something were to happen like; say the roof would collapse at the high school for instance. The Great Falls school district is also running a mill levy request for upkeep while they hold over 35 million dollars now in their reserve account. You can read the details of their mill levy election over at the Electric City Weblog Does that sound like prudent use or just plain abuse of the already overtaxed property owner? From watching the school funding legislative process this last session it appears that this abuse of the taxpayer by the school system is systematic state wide. It is estimated that around 670 million dollars are held in school reserve accounts throughout the state. People! That is nearly a full year’s budget for every school in Montana. Also the final legislative budget for the schools INCREASED this session contrary to all the headlines you read decrying cuts. Nothing was cut although the wish list was drastically trimmed back to reflect our current economic condition.
The Havre Elementary and High School districts have fewer than 2,000 students and operate on a budget of around 18 million dollars. The High school district spends over $10,000 per student per year yet they continually come back to the taxpayer to nickel and dime us to death. Yes it is true it is only $30 more this year for that hypothetical $100,000 home but don’t forget this $30 is added onto what you are already paying which is in excess of $1,000 per year or $2,000 for those of you lucky enough to own a home valued at $200,000 as we reported a couple of weeks ago here on this blog. Failure of Havre’s mill levy request would deprive the Havre district of less than a dollar of increased spending per hundred dollars of current budget tax. Is that undoable? I would think not. It would appear that everyone in Montana is expected to shoulder the weight of our current economic recession EXCEPT the school district.
Is the school spending your money wisely? It is hard to tell because everyone we have talked to that is connected with the school seems to be under some sort of “do not talk” order. We get countless tips asking us to look into things such as replacing a nearly new $16,000 computer server still under warranty because it was “antiquated” when in fact it had never had proper maintenance. Replacing all the administrators IPods with new HP units that weren’t compatible with the server. Or the guy that bought around 1,000 Windows 7 licenses when the newer computers already had the license included and the older units didn’t meet the minimum requirements to even run Windows 7. We get information such as this every week but don’t get me going on the IT people as that is a whole other blog. We realize mistakes are made in every organization but some of these things should be looked to for savings before we come to the taxpayer pocket to just again get our coffers filled
Do your part and vote No, No, and No to today’s mill levy request. We personally don’t have these kinds of cash reserves -- Do you?