Kalispell school levy request a sound investment

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It’s crunch time for school districts in Flathead County as voters prepare to make big decisions on levy requests and school-board trustee candidates in the upcoming May 7 school election.

Asking taxpayers for more money to operate schools is never easy, and we rely on our school boards to do their homework in determining how our schools can be most efficiently operated.

Kalispell Public Schools is asking for a $1.2 million high school general fund levy for the first time in 12 years. Since 2007, enrollment is up by 333 students — the size of an entire Class A school — and 56,000 square feet of new school space has been added — including 46,900 square feet in the recent FHS addition and 9,600 square feet at the Ag Center. However, the operational costs of that new space aren’t covered by bonds.

KPS administrators and board trustees have made a good case for the levy. We believe the district has taken a very conservative approach not only to this levy request but also how it has been operating its schools.

Consider this: the district could have asked for a maximum of $1.8 million, but chose to ask for $600,000 less than the maximum. KPS is at 92 percent of the budget maximum allowed by the state, while Butte is at 109 percent and Missoula, Helena and Bozeman are at 100 percent. Compared to local schools, Kalispell’s budget maximum is among the lowest, with Whitefish at 106 percent of the maximum, and Columbia Falls at 100 percent.

If the levy passes, Kalispell would be at 97 percent of the budget maximum.

Another fact that supports how efficiently the Kalispell district operates is the cost per student. Kalispell Public Schools has a $7,099 cost per student, compared to $8,915 in Whitefish. Kalispell’s cost per student is lower than all other sizable school districts in the state, according to information supplied to the Inter Lake’s editorial board.

What bang will Kalispell taxpayers get for their buck in supporting the high school levy? The money will provide additional funding for technology, curriculum, individual education, career and technical education, and safety and security.

And supporting the Kalispell levy won’t cost taxpayers a lot of bucks.

Kalispell Superintendent Mark Flatau compared the monthly cost for a $275,000 median-priced home to the price of a gallon of milk. It’s roughly $30 a year.

We’re proud of our students and their myriad accomplishments. This levy request is a reasonable and sound investment in making sure we’re giving our future leaders the tools they need to succeed. KPS’ motto is worth noting: “Our kids. Our future.”

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