Monday’s Commentary: Vote for Schools and Parks

There’s a May 8 School election in Great Falls that will elect two school trustees and approve/disapprove a $1.35 million elementary levy. The Great Falls Tribune reports that voters will also find on the ballot a section asking them to consider the creation of Park District-1 with an assessment amount of $1.5 million annually for the first three years to address $12.6 million in deferred maintenance identified in the city’s parks and recreation sites.

The ballots are in the mail according to a recent article in the Trib. Below you will find my commentary about both.

Great Falls Schools Elementary Operational Levy

Of course, there are those in Great Falls who want to gripe and complain about the public schools wanting more money. It seems there are always some who are against everything. It grows old after a while hearing these naysayers complain.

I guess that’s why I would probably never make a good school trustee. By the way, I won’t endorse anyone for school trustee, but I urge voters to check the qualifications of each and not to vote for an extremist or as I like to call them, wackos.

Some of these naysayers like to publish the salaries of the school administrators – like it’s a gotcha deal. It is public knowledge, but I am pretty sure most of these leaders in the schools spent a lot of money to attain the education level to be in these positions. Then there’s the information being passed around on social media about the superintendent making more money than the governor. That’s free speech and I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with the superintendent making more than the governor. I don’t know Superintendent Tammy Lacey personally, but I think she does a remarkable job.

The bottom line is we need the best and the brightest teaching our children. We need the best and brightest as principals and vice principals and in other leadership positions. As everyone knows, the best costs a little more.

If voters approve the levy it will cost less than $20 per year or $1.66 per month for the average homeowner. If your home is valued at $200,000 it will cost you around $2.22 per month.

That seems like a pretty good investment.

Great Falls voters approved a $98.8 million Facility Bond in 2016. That money can only go to the facilities not the day to day operations of the district.

I urge Great Falls voters to support the school levy on May 8.

View a school levy brochure HERE.

Establish a Great Falls Park District

There are 57 city parks in Great Falls. That’s a “wow” fact. Some of the reasons my family stayed in Great Falls after exiting the military was because of the beautiful parks and the River’s Edge Trail.

According to the City of Great Falls, a Park District is a special purpose district which would allow the City to assess funds to be used for parks, forestry and trails for capital improvements, staff and operations. Funds may also be used for maintenance and improvements to recreation and aquatics facilities; but may not be used for programming.

The City of Great Falls also contends if the creation of the Park District is approved by the voters, the proposed assessment amount for the District would be $1.5 million annually for the first three years. The assessment method would be based on taxable property value. The estimated 2018 assessment for a property with a 2017 market value of $100,000 would be $1.91 per month.

This also seems like a good investment.

Over the years I have seen some deterioration in park facilities and trails. This funding will help repair and maintain these jewels and also ensure they are ADA compliant.

If the Park District is approved I expect to see major improvements. That’s why I am supporting it.

In Closing

Great schools and beautiful parks are part of what makes Great Falls a wonderful place to live and work. Maintaining these two areas with a small investment will make Great Falls more attractive to businesses looking to relocate.

Please support the school levy and the creation of a park district.

View a sample ballot HERE.