Aug 15, 2011 11:47 PM by Kay Rossi (Great Falls)

Great Falls School Board hears opinions on permissive levy

Great Falls residents had a chance to voice opinions Monday night over a permissive levy the Great Falls School Board is currently considering.

Board members held a special meeting to discuss the issue.

Under a new law passed by the 2011 Montana Legislature, the district is allowed to utilize levy funding approved by voters in the past five years that hasn't been used.

The majority of people in attendance were for the levy, but a few expressed concerns.

Stuart Lewin said, "I have no question in my mind that this is important to do. In fact, I think it's the responsibility of the board to actually do this."

But Cyndi Baker commented, "You've put your arms around us like you're going to hug us and then you've let your arm drop into our back pocket and you've picked it. That's what you're trying to do. You're trying to pick pocket us."

The school district estimates the tax increase will come to $2.56 annually for a home valued at $100,000.

According to District Financial Manager Brian Patrick, not utilizing funds allowed under Senate Bill 329 will mean a budget shortfall of $2.7 million.

With the additional funds, he estimates that shortfall would be closer to $1.1 million.

Trustees will hold another special meeting Tuesday night to make their decision on the issue.

That meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the school district office building.