HELENA — At a meeting Tuesday night, Helena Public Schools trustees held an initial discussion about the levy proposals they will put before voters this spring, but they say they need one more question answered before setting a final plan.
The school board was set to give official approval to hold an election May 7, but they delayed their action until district leaders get a better picture of what they’ll be allowed to propose.
HPS is likely to propose either five or six separate levies. Two of the largest will be to support safety and security, one for the elementary school district and one for the high school district – which also includes Wolf Creek and Canyon Creek.
Superintendent Rex Weltz says it’s clear student safety is a bigger need than ever. At a committee meeting earlier Thursday, he said you only need to look to last week’s shooting at a school in Iowa to see evidence of that.
The levies would fund not only physical improvements to school buildings, but also mental health supports.
“I really think that it's important for us to make sure that we're keeping students’ mental health at the forefront, so that we can make sure that our buildings are safe inside and out, and they have the services that they need,” said Lona Carter, school health grant facilitator for HPS.
Trustees are also considering technology levies for the elementary and high school districts, as well as a general operations levy for the elementary schools. However, Weltz and business services administrator Janelle Mickelson told the board they had just realized they may also be able to propose a general levy for the high schools – but only if the Montana Board of Public Education approves the district’s proposals for charter schools. That decision is coming later this month, so they asked trustees to delay finalizing the election until their February meeting.
Leaders said they’re still finalizing the proposed amounts for the safety and technology levies.
“There's a lot of things to think about: exactly what we want to ask for, and – given the burden on the community in terms of other things, property tax increases – what is viable to ask of the community,” said trustee Janet Armstrong.
Weltz said, all together, he expected the four safety and technology levies would amount to an additional $25 to $30 a month on a $300,000 home. The general operations levy for elementary schools is likely to be significantly smaller.
Because of state law, the district will report the impact of the proposed levies on a $100,000 home, a $300,000 home and a $600,000 home.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been corrected to note that the additional $25 to $30 from the safety and technology levies would be per month, not per year. We apologize for the error.