Levy Loss Analysis Begins


As I noted in my email to all of you on Friday, I was very disappointed and even angry about the levy outcome.  As John Maxwell said, “Disappointment is the gap that exists between expectation and reality.”  On Tuesday night, that gap was deep.  As I have processed it, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words provided me some perspective:  There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.  Because of my passion for GFPS, giving an upbeat shrug just wasn’t in the cards.  It still isn’t.  We will study the levy outcomes to determine all the reasons it didn’t pass so we can learn and hopefully do better in the future.  I will try to share our analyses with all of you, as I’m sure you have opportunities to talk to community members about the reasons as well.

A common reason I have heard is the “bond hangover” or in other words, because the bond levy passed, operational levies won’t for years to come.  One thing we can do to analyze each hypothesis is to look to other communities in similar situations.  Here is the data on that:

of Bond
Cost Per Year
on $100K
Kalispell $             54,048,000 2016 Yes $1,000,000 $30.22 Yes
Helena $             63,000,000 2017 Yes $438,500 $6.15 Yes
Great Falls $             98,865,000 2016 Yes $1,349,000 $13.28 No
Billings $           121,300,000 2013 No NA NA NA
Bozeman $           146,500,000 2013-2017 Yes $454,000 $2.90 Yes
Missoula $           158,000,000 2015 Yes $800,000 $10.00 Yes
Butte Currently Planning 2018 No NA NA NA

So it appears that the “bond hangover” didn’t prevent the passage of operational levies in the other AA districts.  It might have been because their operational levy amounts were smaller.  That could have an effect, but the one reason I haven’t heard is that the $1.66/month on the average Great Falls home was an excessive amount in and of itself.  I also note that the levy requests in the other AA districts are smaller because they only have those dollar amounts below their budget caps.  As they pass levies, there is not as much accumulation of budget authority that has not been voted and approved.  As we fail levies, the space below the cap gets bigger.

I have also heard that the levy failed because the community believes there is incompetent management of the district; that if I was more competent, levies wouldn’t be necessary.  If that logic holds, then the other four AA districts who ran levies as well as the numerous Montana districts that ran a levy this year (with 80% of them passing) have incompetent leadership.  If that logic holds, then what was happening from 2000 to 2007 when GFPS ran a levy almost every year?  While it may be what people think, the truth is that levies are the way schools are funded.  Levies are, by law, the way districts generate additional income for increases in the costs of doing business.  Upholding our responsibility to provide resources to do our work is not incompetence.

As I continue to analyze and share, I will update the “Asked and Answered” page (https://gfps.k12.mt.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Asked-and-Answered-18-1-1.pdf).  Check back often even throughout the summer.

Wishing you all a great week as we quickly approach the end of this school year!
Take care. Stay safe.  Be well.