Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a levy and a bond?

The easiest way to think about it is that Levies are for Learning and Bonds are for Buildings. LEVIES = LEARNING Environment  (Library Books, Curriculum, Staffing, Building Maintenance and Needed Improvements, etc.) BONDS = BUILDINGS - Major Construction (New Buildings, Major Renovations, etc.)
Levy
- a ballot measure asking voters to agree to a property tax to collect a set dollar amount for a specific number of years. They are used for operational costs and capital improvements. Local levies bridge the gap between state funding and the true costs of operating a school district. There are many different types of levies. Some examples include: General Fund, Building Reserve, Transportation, Tuition, Technology, etc. Replacement Levy - a levy asking voters to replace an existing levy that is scheduled to expire. Bond - allows a district to finance the cost of projects through the bond market.  When placed before voters, the school district is asking for the authority to sell municipal bonds and then pay the principal and interest on those bonds using money collected from property taxes. Bond proceeds are used to purchase or construct new buildings, renovate and modernize existing buildings, add or upgrade infrastructure systems, and purchase additional equipment. Bonds are used to finance the projects because the payments to the investors are made over a period of 12-20 years thus spreading the costs of the projects over a long period of time which reduces the annual impact on property taxes.



What are the 3 levies on the ballot?

Elementary: General Fund Levy
This levy is being run for $105, 422.51.  Please see below for the yearly and monthly cost of what this would be on a $100,000 and $200,000 home.  
Please see the flyer: click here

Elementary: Building Reserve Levy
This levy is being run for $200,000.  This is replacing a levy that was voted in 2013 and is running out this year.  This would allow us to maintain this money each year for our buildings.  Please see below for the costs.
Please see the flyer: click here

High School: Building Reserve Levy
This levy is being run for $200,000.  This is replacing a levy that was voted in 2013 and is running out this year.  This would allow us to maintain this money each year for our buildings.  Please see below for the costs.
Please see the flyer: click here



How much is it going to cost me?




Here is a graphic to show total increase of the three levies if they were all passed: 



What happens if the levies don't pass?

If the levies do not pass, the Elementary School District will have to cut the $105,422.51 amount that was being levied.  This would drop the budget authority of the district and the only way the budget authority could increase would be to have an increase in enrollment. 

If the building reserve levies don't pass, the cost of repairs and maintenance of the district will need to come out of the General Fund which would mean there would need to be more cuts to make those repairs.  


I have been hearing a lot about SB307, what is it?

SB307 is an act that revised some laws related to school funding in the 2017 legislative session.  The following are some items that were revised: 

- requiring trustees to adopt a resolution with public notice prior to increasing nonvoted levies
- making a school district's ability to transfer funds for school safety purposes permanent
- requiring subfunds to account for various revenues and uses of the building reserve fund
- authorizing a limited levy for school major maintenance with state support
- renaming the school facility reimbursement program the debt service assistance program
- creating a state special revenue account and program for school major maintenance aid
- phasing out the quality schools facility grant program
- amending other sections

So how does this affect GPS?
All of it affects GPS in one way or another, but below is a list of items that are directly related to the levy discussion.

Our district, along with all districts in MT, is required to publish a notice that states the intent to impose an increase of a nonvoted levy by March 31st.  This notice was published in the March 25, 2018 Ranger Review. 

Our district is allowed to transfer funds from any budgeted or nonbudgeted fund (except debt service or retirement funds) into the building reserve fund for the purpose of school safety and security (following all guidelines).  

Our district is allowed to impose a permissive (nonvoted) building reserve levy up to $15,000 plus $100 per student (ANB).  This means that GPS could have issued a permissive levy for the building reserve.  The board of trustees chose to go out to vote instead for the current cost of the levies ($200,000 HS and $100,000 EL each year for 5 years).  

Please check it out for yourself: http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2017/billpdf/SB0307.pdf

Can we fundraise for the money instead of run the levy?

It has been brought up that we could fundraise to get the proposed money to fund the general fund and building reserve and not have to go out for a levy vote.  There is much to discuss on this topic but here is some basic information about it.  

Montana school finance is set up in a way to receive funding from various sources: federal government, state government, local taxpayers, etc.  When certain circumstances arise, a school district can either impose a permissive levy or a voted levy (criteria set by state law).  This system is how all public schools have to abide by to receive funding.  Each school district will then set what they deem as being best to give the students of their district the best education they can give.  

When a voted levy is initiated by a school district, it is up to the voters to approve the levy for the school district to receive that money.  If the voters do not approve the levy, the district does not receive that money and will have to figure out a way to educate their students without that money.  

So can people just fundraise and give money to the district instead of voting for the levy?
The answer is yes.  Donations can be given to the district but there are some stipulations to this.  First, the money needs to specifically state what the money will be used for (Ex: General Fund, Building Reserve, Baseball Uniforms, etc.).  Secondly, the board of trustees has to accept the donation.  The board of trustees always has the right to not accept the donation if it does not fit into the policies of the district or if it does not fit the direction of the district.  

So what happens if the levy passes, can the fundraised money be used to lower the property taxes?
The answer is yes but there are steps that would have to be taken.  If the levies pass, the district always has the choice to not levy the whole amount to the taxpayers.  So in order to make this happen, the following would have to happen.  First, the money would need to be given to the district stating the specific purpose (Ex: Used for the General Fund).  Second, the board of trustees would have to accept the donation.  Third, the district would then have to choose to not levy the whole amount that was passed by the voters.  Example: if the voters passed a $150,000 general fund levy, a check was written to the district for $100,000 to be used for the General Fund, and the board of trustees accepted the donation, the board of trustees could decide to only levy $50,000 instead of the $150,000 that was voted.  This would decrease the amount of property taxes for each taxpayer.  

So what happens if the levy doesn't pass and the money is not raised?
If the levy is not passed, the district will not get that money and will have to cut that amount to balance the budget.  

What would have to be raised in order to get the total amount levied for next year?
$405,422.51 would be the total amount for the 18-19 school year ($105,422.51 General Fund, $200,000 EL Building Reserve, $100,000 HS Building Reserve).  

How much would each person pay if we wanted to raise all of the levied money?
This is almost impossible to figure out.  It would all depend on how many people donated to the cause.  But let's say that there are 3,500 people willing to donate, each person would have to pay $115.84 to reach that goal.  This number would either go down or up depending on how many people were able to donate.  

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