Voters in the Helena School District have approved an increase in the district’s elementary school levy and chosen three school board trustees.
The property tax levy passed 57% to 43%. It will collect an additional $103,000 a year for the district, by raising taxes $1.35 a year on a $100,000 home and $2.70 a year on a $200,000 home.
The levy vote comes as district leaders have raised concerns that their budget framework could become unsustainable over the next few years. They said this levy increase was one of their last remaining tools for raising additional revenue.
In the race for Helena school board, the top three candidates were elected. The only two candidates who actually appeared on the ballot – incumbent Libby Goldes and candidate John McEwen – finished around 5,000 votes ahead of anyone else running.
Goldes and McEwen will be joined on the board by Siobhan Hathhorn, one of eight write-in candidates competing for the final seat. Hathhorn finished more than a thousand votes ahead of the next-closest write-in choice, Ella Currier.
Lewis and Clark County Elections Office leaders say they faced some additional challenges this election. To handle the large number of write-in candidates, they brought in 24 extra election judges. They set up eight three-person panels, each one tallying the votes for a specific write-in candidate.
“We are fortunate we have really good election judges in this county,” said Audrey McCue, Lewis and Clark County’s elections supervisor.
This was also the first major election the county has run since Montana voters approved a referendum that limits who can return another voter’s mail ballot. People who turned in someone else’s ballot had to fill out a registry form, including that voter’s name, address and relationship to them.
McCue said many of the voters who came in had already heard that they would have to fill out the form. She said the county learned valuable lessons about how to administer the new rules, and they will put those to use in upcoming – and larger – elections.
“We have an idea about the common questions people have, we have a better sense of how we can reorganize in our office to make that work better next time, and we know what kind of questions to ask other counties who tried different things and find out what worked well for them and how we can improve that,” said McCue.
County election officials still have to count provisional ballots, which will be added to the vote totals next Monday. The results will not be finalized until the county canvass in about two weeks.
The East Helena School District administered its own election, without using the county elections office. Incumbent trustees Marcia Ellermeyer and Scott Walter were both reelected to the school board, ahead of challenger Wesley Feist. Incumbent Martin Balukas ran unopposed for a one-year term, after he was appointed to the board in 2018.
Lewis and Clark County School District Election Unofficial Results
Helena School District Elementary School Levy
Yes: 7,160; 57.1%
No: 5,368; 42.9%
Helena School District Trustee (Three-year term, top three elected)
Libby Goldes (incumbent): 8,059
John McEwen: 7,619
Siobhan Hathhorn (write-in): 2,697
Ella Currier (write-in): 1,165
Phoebe Williams (write-in): 588
Justin Stolp (write-in): 132
Michael Spreadbury (write-in): 114
Angela Ewing-Hyyppa (write-in): 80
Ralph Moody (write-in): 72
Doug Hansen (write-in): 42
East Helena School District Trustee (Three-year term, top two elected)
Marcia Ellermeyer (incumbent): 945
Scott Walter (incumbent): 940
Wesley Feist: 586
East Helena School District Trustee (One-year unfinished term, one elected)
Martin Balukas (incumbent): 1,262
-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News