Victor schools to ask voters for operating levy


VICTOR, Mont. - The Victor School District will go to voters in April to ask for a general fund operating levy.

They aim to offset a projected $35,000 shortfall due to declining enrollment numbers. It comes on top of a $40,000 shortfall last year.

The board will meet next week to determine how much it will ask for, but it will be between $100,000 and $200,000 in perpetuity.

Victor Schools Superintendent Lance Pearson said in the past six years Victor has reduced its teaching staff from 29 teachers to 25.

Often, he said, when teachers or staff retire their positions are left unfilled.

"We want to keep small class sizes for our students," he said. "We want to keep all of our teachers, all of our programs so that our kids have a high-quality education."

Currently there is one physical education teacher for all grade levels.

The elementary school is down from two second grade teachers to one. That teacher has 22 children in her class.

Shanna Barrett has three children -- one in day care, one in kindergarten and one in first grade.

"I want my children to be in smaller classes," she said, "so they get better one-on-one education."

Pearson said if the levy passes, "if necessary we'd be able to bring back a second grade teacher."

The school has cut two office workers, and custodians have been cut back from 40 hours to 32 hours a week.

Some 300 students are enrolled in Victor schools; 125 of those are in high school. That's some of the highest numbers the school has had in awhile, but in the grade school it's a different story.

A few years ago there were about 150 kindergarten and grade school kids. Today there are about 120 students.

"We're funded based on our enrollment," said the superintendent, "and as we slowly get down we have to cut services to our kids or cut programs."

The school board will decide how much to ask voters for at its meeting Tuesday. It could be $100,000 for operations, as much as $200,000 or in between.

At the top end, if it is a $200,000 proposal, property owners with a home worth $200,000 would pay about $80 a year in taxes. If they own a home worth $100,000 it would be about $40 a year.

Several people NBC Montana talked to on the street said it seems like a reasonable request. But Victor has its share of residents who are on fixed incomes and, for many, tax increases can set limited budgets on edge.

Victor schools will find out what voters think after ballots are mailed out in April.

Pearson said to his knowledge Victor schools have not requested a general fund operating levy in at least 15 years.

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