GREAT FALLS – The Electric City is still months away from hosting its upcoming spring ballot, but one ticket item, notably the school district’s operational levy, is already causing stirs in the community.
While some business owners aren't big fans of new taxes, students at Great Falls High said they are for the idea, since they face limited resources as their curriculum depends more and more on technology and the internet.
Students and teachers said they often need to pay for licenses to access educational programs online. Since not everyone can afford them, some are forced to go back to physical textbooks, and even then there's not enough to go around sometimes.
Plus, with older computers still in use, one senior at Great Falls High said it's getting more difficult to do schoolwork.
"Not having new computers is making it harder to do the homework quickly in class since computers are often times failing during periods, and then we can't look at the notes,” said Elliote Roberts. “So it's making it a much harder learning experience to be effective.”
Under Montana law, levies help with 20% of any school district's budget, with the other 80% coming from state funds depending on how many students are enrolled in any given school year.
While dollar amounts for the levy aren't set in stone, Keith Verros, the owner of CTR Computers, said he's worried about its potential financial impacts on local businesses like his own, especially if they rent their business location.
"Sure the property tax does go to the property owner but he passes that on to the renters by higher rent. So indirectly you will be paying for it," said Verros.
For now, GFPS is using last year's budget as a reference for the next levy. A final dollar amount for it will be announced on March 9, according to Brian Patrick, GFPS’ director of business operations.