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Libby trustees decide no levy

| March 18, 2004 11:00 PM

By Paul Boring, Western News Reporter

The Libby School Board voted on Tuesday to approve a preliminary budget for next year, choosing to operate at a shortfall rather than burden taxpayers with a levy.

³We hope that the community understands that the decision not to run a levy has been made only after months of hard work by our administrators and staff and with a lot of questions and soul-searching by the board,² the board members said in a written statement. ³At meeting after meeting we have agonized over the cuts that have been made not only this year, but also over the past years, and they are substantial.²

Approving the $7,260,562 budget will leave the district roughly $500,000 in the red. The district has been saddled with the task of maintaining a quality educational program while contending with less funding and the No Child Left Behind legislation.

³We haven¹t scrapped everything and we haven¹t said that we¹re cutting programs,² Superintendent Kirby Maki said. ³We haven¹t done that. For many schools, that¹s their first mode of operation. We really started with the heart of our program and developed from there.²

The district has suffered over the last four years because of the budget cuts and poor state of the local economy. Since 2000, 44 school system employee positions have been eliminated and two schools have been shut down.

³It is only because our staff is so dedicated to the children they teach that we have been able to keep our programs at quality levels,² the statement said. ³Most of the cuts which we have made are not obvious to the public because teachers and administrators have chosen to go Œabove and beyond,¹ so that no child is left behind. But there comes a time when it is impossible to ask more of them, a time when the quality of our children¹s education does start to deteriorate.²

Last year the high school was forced to do away with block scheduling and the middle school eliminated team teaching. A number of electives have been cut, including music and physical education, and supplies at all of the schools have been reduced.

The school board weighed their budgetary options, deciding that a levy would be unreasonable for the community.

³At every work session and meeting that we have had, whenever the question arises as to whether or not we should run a levy, the first conclusion is, ŒWe cannot in good conscience ask the local taxpayers for more when our economy is so poor,² the board¹s statement said. ³We need to do our part and not add to their burden, to help them out, so to speak.¹²

If the economy does not improve and further cuts are necessary, down the road a levy will be inevitable.

³We truly hope that the community appreciates this effort and remembers it, because the time is coming when we will surely have to ask them for their help, for the sake of the children,² the statement said.