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A look at the Seeley
school levy request

Seeley Swan Pathfinder
April 1, 1999
by Sally Johnson
School District Clerk

On April 6, voters in Seeley Lake Elementary School District #34 will vote for two school board positions and on a $34,640 special levy, of approximately 7.8 mills, to operate the school in 1999/2000.

The proposed levy is $801 higher than the $33,841 approved by voters last year. According to Stan Nicholson, voters should see very little impact on their taxes.

Nicholson, a Seeley Lake resident, is a retired economist who has conducted community meetings throughout Montana concerning the state budget and state and local taxes. Nicholson, Gary Miller and Cheryl Evans served as community members on the School's Finance Committee and helped develop the 1999/2000 budget.

"Last year, property owners in School District #34 found that taxes devoted to education did not increase, so I don't expect any difference with this levy amount," Nicholson said. He said there was little impact because increased construction in the area raised the value of each mill.

The proposed levy would support a budget that is nearly $19,500 below the current year budget. The decrease is due to a loss in state funds because of a drop in enrollment.

"The state determines its share of funding for each school district based upon enrollment," said Superintendent John Hebnes. "This year, school enrollment has decreased in the kindergarten through sixth grade by about 13 students."

Montana's ranking as 50th in the nation for per capita income is discouraging working families from moving to Montana, according to Hebnes. "Some families are moving out of our district to find jobs elsewhere and others are not moving in because it is difficult to find employment," Hebnes said.

Board member Loren Rose said the school is operating cost effectively while providing quality education.

According to figures from the Missoula County Superintendent of Schools, Seeley Lake Elementary spends about $250 per student below the county average of schools with more than 100 students.

Academically, Seeley Lake students traditionally rank in the top ten percent of all schools in Montana. Hebnes attributes the academic success to staff, parents and community support.

"The average teacher at Seeley Lake Elementary has been on staff for more than eleven years and has the equivalent of a master's degree," Hebnes said, "and many of our teachers are raising families in Seeley Lake and are committed to the community."

Hebnes said parents are also a critical factor in good education because students do better in school when their parents are involved. "Parents in Seeley Lake take an interest in their children's education. On any day, you will find parents volunteering in several classrooms," Hebnes said.

Hebnes said community support for the building project provided students with an improved learning environment. "It makes a difference when students are in an environment where roofs are not leaking and the classrooms are not congested."

Hebnes said the community is also using the school building. More than 18 groups have used the facility during the past year for a wide variety of activities - from walking programs to weekly Girl Scout meetings to special community meetings.

Hebnes noted that the school board is an important link between the community and the school.

Two Elementary School Board positions will be on the April 6 ballot. Pamela R. Pitman and Vicki Jardine have filed for the two school board positions vacated by Charlee Parker and Jim Kyle.

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