Kalispell voters approve $1M school levy

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A student walks to the school buses at the end of the day outside Hedges Elementary in Kalispell. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake FILE)

Four Flathead Valley school districts had success in passing levies according to unofficial results following school elections Tuesday.

Kalispell Public Schools passed a $1 million elementary district general fund levy by a vote of 3,121 to 2,639.

Owners of homes valued at $200,000 can anticipate annual property taxes to increase by about $50.38.

Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau said the general fund levy will allow the district to maintain current programming and staffing levels in the district’s five existing elementary schools, in addition to providing operational support to its sixth elementary when Rankin opens in the fall.

“We’re grateful for the continued support of the community,” Flatau said. “We don’t take that for granted.”

Kalispell voters also gave their approval for the school district to purchase a 12-acre parcel north of Kalispell by Whitefish Stage Road and Rose Crossing using available funds by a vote of 3,858 to 1,889. The parcel will be a future elementary school site.

Total voter turnout was roughly 29.8 percent. This percentage takes into account 48 votes that were not counted either due to signature rejections (applicable to absentee ballots) or spoiled ballots.

Whitefish and West Valley school districts also had general fund levies on the ballot.

Where Whitefish was successful in passing its levy — West Valley was not. General fund levies raise money for a broad range of expenses such as salaries, supplies, curriculum and utilities. This type of levy typically does not expire.

With a 40.3 percent voter turnout, West Valley School District voters defeated a $149,691 general fund levy issue by a 642-483 margin. If approved, annual taxes would have increased by $42.71 on homes valued at $200,000.

In Whitefish School District, there were 1,241 votes for and 795 against a $95,125 general fund levy for the elementary district. Voter turnout was around 19.3 percent.

Owners of homes valued at $200,000 can expect annual taxes to increase by $4.54.

A contested trustee election in Whitefish resulted in the re-election of incumbent Ruth Harrison who received 1,193 votes. Betsy Kohnstamm will also join the board with 1,311 votes. Incumbent candidate Marguerite Kaminski had 866 votes.

Columbia Falls and Bigfork school districts had 10-year technology fund levy issues approved. Technology levies generate money toward the rental, purchase or maintenance of technology in addition to staff training.

Voters approved Columbia Falls School District’s $485,000 elementary district technology levy by a vote of 1,113 to 803. Voter turnout was around 20 percent.

Owners of homes valued at $200,000 can expect to see annual taxes increase by $43.20.

Also on the ballot was a contested trustee election for two open seats. Incumbent Jill Rocksund was re-elected with 1,255 votes. Michael Nicosia will also join the school board with 973 votes. Candidates Jonathan Foust received 460 votes, Bruce Crockett, 445 and Kyle Rosas, 224.

Bigfork School District passed technology levies that will generate $150,000 for the elementary district and $100,000 for the high school district. Owners of homes valued at $200,000 can anticipate annual taxes to increase by $14.13, and $7.54 respectively.

The elementary district technology levy received 975 votes for and 665 against the issue. The high school district technology levy passed by a 1,371 to 934 margin.

Some school districts only held contested trustee elections.

In Helena Flats School District, incumbent Kevin Fritz was re-elected to the board with 169 votes. Jessica Dyer was also elected with 155 votes. Candidate Jaclynne Magers received 103 votes.

Incumbents Melissa Coscarelli and Lily Brower were re-elected to the Marion School District board with 103 and 98 votes, respectively. Candidate Laurianne Stewart received 86 votes.

Smith Valley voters re-elected incumbent Richard Sutton to the school board with 173 votes. Heather Truscott was also elected with 108 votes. Candidate Rand Norby received 60 votes, while write-in candidate Jim Cameron received 73.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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