Looking to expand programs while shoring up a $422,000 budget reduction since 2010, the Columbia Falls School District 6 board recently approved a $478,984 high school mill levy request. If approved, the levy would raise taxes on a home with a market value of $100,000 by $17.49 and on a home with a market value of $200,000 by $34.98 annually.
About 80 percent of the funds would go toward enhancing or creating new and innovative programs at the high school The remaining 20 percent would cover current programs, increases in personnel costs and inflation, school board members said last week.
The levy funds would pay for:
• Support of dual credit classes in cooperation with Flathead Valley Community College. The program allows high school students to take college-level courses at no additional cost to the student. Students also obtain college credits in the process. The school plans on adding additional classes in math, business and the health professions.
• Add support for more advanced placement courses as well as support the current curriculum.
• Create new triad classes, where a student, for example, might take an industrial arts class in the building trades along with the corresponding classes in math and English to learn the skills needed to complete the calculations and learn to read building plans.
“It enhances student’s ability to walk out of school and be career ready,” said board member Larry Wilson.
• Upgrade the hardware and software in the school library and upgrade technology in the high school learning center.
• Enhance math tutoring both in and out of class for students as well as develop success plans and academic support for students at risk of dropping out or failing.
• Improve the school’s instrumental and music rooms with new carpeting, soundproofing, additional storage lighting improvements and other upgrades and as well as options to upgrade other classrooms in the school.
“The board sees this levy request as an enhancement of the full spectrum of student needs,” said trustee Dean Chisholm.
The high school’s total budget is just over $5 million annually for about 690 students. With a new state school funding formula in place, the district has seen a reduction in state funding. Meanwhile, larger AA schools, like Flathead, have seen an increase in funding through the new formula.
For example, in fiscal year 2013, Columbia Falls High School had a general fund budget of $5.087 million and an enrollment of 692 students. This year it has a budget of $5.042 million and lost one student — a reduction of $45,000 in funding.
Meanwhile, Flathead High School had a reduction of 33 students from ’13 to ’14 but saw a budget increase of $631,000 over the same period, due to the change in the state funding formula.
Since 2010, Columbia Falls has lost about 91 students in the high school and has cut several teaching positions as a result, school board members noted last week.
But the school can’t continue to cut teachers to make up the budget gap and enhance students learning opportunities— the school still needs to teach courses like chemistry, physics and others to meet state requirements, whether there are nine students in a class or 20, board members noted.
The levy vote is May 6.