Neighborhood NewsHelena - Lewis and Clark County


School levies fail in Helena and East Helena

Posted at 6:56 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 21:06:00-04

HELENA — The public has rejected all proposed levies from the Helena School District, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s election.

“I’m disappointed, but honestly I’m not that surprised. The 2023 legislature burned through a historic surplus of money, didn’t touch school funding, and raised everybody’s property taxes,” says Jennifer McKee, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for Helena Public Schools.

The Helena levies would have totaled millions of dollars for safety, technology, and operations at Helena Elementary and high schools.

McKee says the board must now make cuts. She says the work will start from a list of budget cut recommendations made last spring by a committee of stakeholders. And added that school closures aren’t likely.

“We do have growth happening within our community on the east side of town. And those east side schools are starting to get filled up. We can’t really afford to be closing school space right now. So, I would not look for any kind of school closure, but there will be cuts. I don’t know how we could get through it without cutting something,” says McKee.

McKee says that the budget shortfalls faced by the school are indicative of a larger issue to do with the basic school funding formula which fails to provide local school districts with funds when the state collects additional tax revenue from raised property taxes. McKee says that the state doesn’t give Helena Public Schools enough money to operate.

“The state started it. They underfunded education. This was our best effort to compensate for that error. But I don’t blame the local taxpayers. They are strapped. Property taxpayers in Montana are strapped,” says McKee.