Yes for Billings Kids Paid for by Yes for Kids | Box 31177, Billings MT 59107 | Darla Huebner, Treasurer Thu, 29 Apr 2010 18:44:49 +0000 en hourly 1 Why Billings Schools Need the Levies to Pass This Year Thu, 29 Apr 2010 18:43:11 +0000 admin by Malcolm Goodrich, Chair, SD2 School Board

By unanimous vote, the Billings School District 2 board agreed to place an elementary-district operating levy of $1.8 million, an elementary-district technology levy of $1.4 million and a high school district technology levy of $1 million before Yellowstone County voters in May. This decision was not taken lightly. The board is mindful of its need to balance tax burdens placed upon the voters with the Montana constitutional mandate to provide a quality educational opportunity for all of its students. However, both the elementary and high school districts are at a critical funding set point where expenditure reductions must be tempered with a levy increase in order to soften looming budget shortfalls.

Grim projections

District 2 is projecting deficits of $2.16 million in the elementary district and $1.97 million in the high school district for the 2010-2011 year. The combined deficit for the two districts is projected to be nearly $6 million in 2011-12. The projected combined deficit of $6 million in 2011-12 is based upon an assumption of no additional contractual raise for District 2 staff in that year.

Without passage of the levies, our school system will not look the same as it does today. People are understandably concerned with the recent proposal for cluster-type schools in 2011-12 forward. That decision could save the elementary district approximately $900,000 yet would terminate our neighborhood schools as they presently exist. However, even that draconian solution (which no one on the board wants to implement) would come up short in solving the projected elementary district shortfall in that year if the levies are not passed. Without passage of the levies, other equally unpalatable structural changes would have to occur to bring the budget into balance.

The district is running out of alternatives because it must meet state and federal mandates, some of which are only partially funded. There is no fat to trim in District 2 budgets. This magnitude of cut will go right into the bone structure of the district without passage of the levies.

Montana’s school funding system is based upon the statutorily mandated need for school districts to request levies of local property taxes to offset the effect of inflation on school operational budgets. During the 17 years from 1991 through 2007, the state-provided education funding increase was less than the published Consumer Price Index in 14 of those years. While inflation is for the moment at low ebb, many years of underfunding from the state, coupled with a failure to pass levies locally, has taken a toll on the ability of District 2 to keep pace with inflation over the long term.

If this is all true, why did the district recently reject the offer by its union employees to accept a 1 percent pay cut in 2010-11? All board members appreciate the unions’ proposal to trim 1 percentage point from its contractual raise in 2010-11. However, the unions required a one-year contract extension into 2011-12 with the 1 percent added back into that year. The district bargaining team believes that a contract extension of the existing terms (plus the 1 percent) into 2011-12 is not something that can be performed by the district under its budget projections. The district bargaining team believes that it must keep all options open in order to close the deficit gap, including potential changes to contract terms in 2011-12. The district would be prevented from doing so if the current contract is simply extended into that critical deficit year. That is why it reluctantly could not accept the unions’ proposal.

Limited options

Over the last five years, when the board has said it will make cuts it has done so. The board has tried to keep cuts away from the classrooms, even to the point where it is now in accreditation noncompliance for counselors and librarians. Unfortunately, our ability to craft reasonable options is at an end given the projected 2011 forward deficit. The board must act aggressively to do everything that it can to close the deficit gap; it must balance its budget as a matter of state law. The board is acting prudently to address this problem, one aspect of which is to request that the voters implement these levies to preserve the quality school system that we all enjoy and one that is required under our state constitution.

Malcolm Goodrich is an attorney and chairman of the board of trustees for Billings Public Schools.

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Billings Public Schools Serve Children Well Wed, 28 Apr 2010 15:01:16 +0000 admin by Pat Karell

As our youngest child graduates from West High School, and 22 years as a School District 2 parent draw to a close, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Jack Copps, Scott Anderson and Kathy Olson, as well as the staff, teachers and administrators who have dedicated their time and talents to the education of our children. In spite of budget shortfalls, the school district’s rigorous pursuit of academic excellence has not faltered. Our students have been blessed with an outstanding education. We owe our heartfelt thanks to everyone in the school system who has been a positive influence upon our children. Thank you for choosing education as your profession. Your passion and dedication to our students has made a lasting contribution to their lives and their futures.

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Let’s rekindle tradition of support for schools Wed, 28 Apr 2010 14:53:55 +0000 admin by George Selover, community volunteer and leader

When my wife and I moved to Billings in 1955, there were excellent public schools grades one through 12 available for our kids’ education. Someone else paid for these schools to benefit ours and many other kids. The existence of these schools is a legacy that has been passed from generation to generation with great success. That legacy continued unfailingly for many years with almost all levies requested by School District 2 in Billings approved over a 45-year period. This legacy seems to have lost its credence in the last 10 years.

Consider this: There are 427 school districts in Montana. Over the last 10 years these school districts have asked their voters to approve levies to operate their schools 1,239 times. Records show that more than 90 percent of those levy requests were approved.

Local levy passage lags

Over that same period of time, School District 2 in Billings requested voters to approve five elementary levies and seven high school levies. Only four of those requests were approved for an approval rate of 33 percent. The vast majority of these levy requests are for school districts much smaller than School District 2 in Billings. Why is their approval rating about three times higher than Billings over the last 10 years? I believe the answer is that the voters in these small communities have great pride in their schools, which are such an important part of their community. If so, Billings needs to rekindle our pride in our schools.

Billings claims to be “the star of the Big Sky Country” and “Montana’s trailhead.” Evidently that does not apply to our recent support of education for our kids.

These levy requests are not about the school board members who were elected by you voters; it is not about the administration or its staff; it is not about the teachers. It is about our kids, our grandchildren, their education and their future.

Show pride in schools

Our kids do not deserve a 33 percent levy success rate while their peers in the rest of Montana, with whom they are in competition for college entrance and scholarship awards, enjoy a 90-plus percent approval rating. I urge you to return to the education legacy Billings provided for many years in the past and show your pride in our schools by not only approving the levies this year, but to do so in the future so that we can and will provide the best possible education for our kids, our grandchildren and their children. I understand that approval of all three requested levies would add only $3.93 per month to a home with a $100,000 market value. That is a very small amount to invest in our kids, our grandchildren and Billings future.

To restart this formerly long-lasting education legacy, vote yes for kids when you receive the mail-in ballot for the May 4 election, and continue to say yes for kids in the future.

Submit your own letter of support.

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The “Yes for Kids” Pledge Tue, 27 Apr 2010 15:17:00 +0000 admin You know the old adage, “Every vote counts?” Well, it’s true. So the Yes For Kids Committee came up with a fun little pledge to remind you that your yes vote won’t count unless you actually fill out your ballot and mail it in. With that in mind, we offer you this:

The Yes for Kids Pledge: I, (state your name), because I am a person of great significance, and, I might add, a person who is loved deeply by all who know me, and who is envied by those who have not yet had the pleasure, do hereby promise, I mean really, truly promise, to vote “YES” for the school mill levies.

And when I fill out my ballot, I hereby promise to do it correctly.

I will darken the proper circles.

I will not use check marks or Xs.

I will not erase, cross out, or white-out anything.

I will use a No. 2 pencil or black ink, nothing else.

I will place my completed ballot in the colored secrecy envelope and seal it.

I will sign the voter affidavit on the back of the envelope, and then place the secrecy envelope inside the voter affidavit envelope.

I will then attach a 44-cent stamp and mail it well before the May 4 deadline.

And finally, I will do these things because I care about our kids, our community, and the future of our fine city.

Thanks for your support, Billings!

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Billlings Gazette: “Other towns in Montana routinely pass school mill levies.” Mon, 19 Apr 2010 16:45:58 +0000 admin The last time a general obligation mill levy failed in Bozeman was 1982.

“We have a community that’s very connected to the schools and proud of the schools,” said Steve Johnson, the business services director for Bozeman Public Schools… Read the rest of the story on the “Billings Gazette” web site

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Billings Gazette: “School levy supporters trying new techniques.” Mon, 19 Apr 2010 16:43:40 +0000 admin Three mill levies will go before voters this month — one to help Billings’ elementary school district meet its bottom line and two to help the elementary and high school districts update technology. Read the rest of the story on the “Billings Gazette” web site

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Ballots mail today. Look for yours this week. Mon, 19 Apr 2010 16:41:14 +0000 admin Today (April 19th), ballots go out for the mill levy elections. Your vote needs to be returned by May 4th, so you have a short window of time to vote. To make sure you don’t forget, we suggest you fill out your ballot and mail it back in the day you receive it. And be sure to drop us a line when you do–it’s great to hear, see and feel the level of support we’re generating community-wide.

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Send an Email to Friends Fri, 16 Apr 2010 20:56:12 +0000 admin Copy and paste the email below, and send it to your friends urging them to join you in voting “yes” for Billings kids:

I’m voting “yes” on mill levies for our local school district, and I’m hoping you will, too. To find out why, I encourage you to visit Yes for Billings Kids on Facebook:

Or, visit the website for fact sheets and other information about the levies and why they’re needed.

If you agree with me, can I ask you for one more thing? Please forward this message to anyone who votes in Billings. We want to show everyone in our community–especially our children–that a simple “yes” can mean a brighter future for all of us.

(your name)

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Donate your Facebook Status, Twitter Status or Profile Photo Fri, 16 Apr 2010 19:24:50 +0000 admin Want a quick and easy way to support Yes for Kids? If you have a Facebook or Twitter profile, just change your photo to our “Yes for Kids” sign right now. Or, just post the photo to your profile’s wall. Get the photo at this link:

Then, donate your Facebook and/or Twitter status update for a day or two (or a week). Copy and paste the message below (or come up with one of your own); if you “tag” us with your status update, it will show up on our wall–just type the “@” sign, followed by “Yes for Billings Kids,” and the tag should automatically fill in if you’re already a Facebook fan (you ARE a Facebook fan, aren’t you?). While you’re at it, you can tag any or all of your friends in the same way, letting them know you want them to pay attention. Find out more about tagging on Facebook at:

Click to select our suggested status update:

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Share the Power of Yes with your Facebook Friends Wed, 07 Apr 2010 20:06:24 +0000 admin We want to show the community of Billings what “yes” can do for our students. And now, you have a great way to help spread the word. Send one of our free virtual gifts (a “Yes” or an “Online Yard Sign”) to your Facebook friends right now, and invite them to join the effort.

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