Trustees nix levy
By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter
Libby School District will not place a tax levy on the May 3 election ballot.
School board members decided Wednesday during a special meeting to follow Superintendent Kirby Maki's recommendation against seeking a levy for the 2005-2006 academic year.
Maki said the district will be able to balance its budget and fill 10 teaching vacancies created by retirements without the extra revenue.
"We have enough money and we're not going to have to cut," Maki said. "We can keep our student-teacher ratio and look for better times in years to come."
Districts won't know exactly how much state funding they will get until late in the legislative session, Maki noted. But he said two bills introduced in the Legislature would boost Libby School District's funding considerably.
House Bill 177, designed as a short-term solution for funding schools, allows districts with declining enrollment to average attendance over a three-year period.
"That's a big thing for our schools," Maki said. "If we can average, we can minimize our problems over time."
He estimated HB177 could add $300,000 to Libby public schools, beyond the amount they receive per pupil.
That per-student allocation would increase by $300 apiece at the elementary level and by $200 per student at high school under a provision in HB125. Maki estimated it would give Libby schools an extra $200,000.
However, HB125 stalled in the House Education Committee and was effectively killed earlier this month.
Maki, who returned Tuesday evening from Helena where he spent a few days talking with legislators, said Libby is in better financial shape than many districts across the state. He believes there will be money to replace seven retiring teachers at Libby High School and three retiring teachers at Asa Wood Elementary School.
High school principal Rik Rewerts estimated the district will save $80,000 to $100,000 by hiring less experienced teachers.
"It will be lower in almost all cases because we're losing people with master's degrees - top-notch people," he said.
Even veteran teachers hired by Libby School District can claim only seven years of experience for salary purposes.
Maki expressed confidence the district will find talented teachers to replace those who are resigning. District representatives will attend education career fairs at Montana State University and the University of Montana prior to the start of fall classes.