By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre school board will decide Tuesday whether to ask voters on May 4 for permission to raise taxes.
The proposed levies would raise a total of about $155,000 for Havre Public Schools. In Elementary School District 16, the increase would be $47,202, or about 3.22 mills, for the general fund. In High School District A, the increase would be $107,847, or about 6.32 mills, for the general fund.
For someone with a $100,000 property inside the boundaries of both districts, that would mean a tax increase of about $22 next year, HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller said today.
The net increase would likely be less than that, Miller said, because next year the district will no longer be paying about 5 mills per year to pay for the addition built on Highland Park Early Primary School about 15 years ago.
Miller said final mill amounts won't be calculated until August, when the revenue picture for the state, county and school district is known.
Typically the board guarantees to taxpayers they won't pay more than a certain number of mills when it puts the question to the voters, he said.
"What our board of trustees and district has always done is made a commitment to our taxpayers that we will not increase the mills by more than a given amount, and that will probably be around 6 mills," Miller said.
School board member Judy Bricker said today she hopes district taxpayers will support the measure if it goes on the ballot.
"I would hope that they would. This is a really reasonable request based on our loss of state money over the past few years," Bricker said.
She added that Havre taxpayers have been very supportive of schools in Havre, and that the district is very careful with their money.
"We're always very conscious on the burden on the taxpayer, the local taxpayer especially," she said.
The increase is necessary for a variety of reasons, Miller said.
The district is expecting increases in utility costs of about 20 percent in the 2004-2005 fiscal year.
Increases in the cost of paper, textbooks and general supplies are outpacing inflation, so the district needs more money to maintain the current level of service, Miller said.
The district also needs more money to remain competitive for the recruitment and retention of teachers and staff in the state market, he said. The teachers are negotiating a new contract this year.
Maintenance costs are also constantly increasing, Miller said.
"We've invested in maintaining our 50-year-old facilities and we want to make sure we continue to pay attention to our general upkeep," he said.
School board vice chair Kathie Newell said today she had not yet seen the most recent budget figures and details of the proposed increase.
"My thoughts are that it wouldn't be coming before us if it wasn't needed," Newell said. "And I have the utmost of trust in our business officials, our finance officials, in providing us with the variety of options and in guiding us toward the most feasible options for our district," Newell added that the money would help the district meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, President Bush's sweeping education reform law.
The elementary district already expects to receive additional state funding next year for an addition of 20 students this year and an additional 2.07 percent funding increase approved by the state Legislature in the 2003 term. Combined with the proposed mill levy, that would mean an increase of about $236,014 in the elementary district's general fund budget. If voters turn down the levy, the budget will increase by about $188,812.
In the high school district, the proposed $107,847 increase from the mill levy would combine with an increase in state funding of about $19,624 after this year's 15-student enrollment decline is factored to raise the general fund budget by $127,472.
The school board will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Havre Middle School.