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Superintendent Discusses General Fund Mill Levy

The Three Forks School Board recently approved a General Fund Mill Levy to be placed on the ballot in May. With the addition of approximately 32,800 square feet, there continues to be increased operational costs including rising costs of utilities, technology, maintenance & custodial services, salaries and increased costs of health and property liability insurance.

Three Forks Schools has not passed a general fund levy since 2017. Since that time TFS Schools has had continued enrollment increases along with the recent significant expansion of classroom and learning space. Without a mill levy increase, TFS has had to use limited reserves from other funds to cover on-going operational costs. This is not sustainable and will eventually lead to the district being forced to cut programming and staff.

A $288,650 high school district and $385,350 elementary general fund levy will be on the May ballot following a unanimous vote by the Three Forks Public Schools Board of Trustees. The Three Forks School District is permitted to levy up to $479,019 in the elementary district to reach the maximum state allowed budget and to levy $349,838 for the high school district, for a total of $828,857. The TFS District is requesting the Board's recommendation of a total of $674,000 which is significantly below the maximum allowed budget. It is important to note that many of the surrounding districts are currently at or near their maximum levy capacity and may run a mill levy annually to stay in step with rising costs. Since the TFS District has not passed a levy since 2017, the gap required to reach our maximum budget has continued to widen.

Additional space was created by the 2020 building bond project that allows the district to respond to student requests for additional course offerings while maintaining accreditation standards for maximum class enrollment size. Student course requests for the 2023-24 school year have taken place and our students are requesting the return of some classes that have been cut in the past due to lack of building space. Students are also requesting additional course offerings to be offered in-person rather than virtually. Due to enrollment growth, additional sections must also be offered because of large class sizes. The following is a summary of course considerations:

* Reinstatement of past courses that had to be cut: Human Form and Function (Dual Credit), Sociology, Industrial Technology, Wildlife and Recreation.

* New course considerations: Criminology, Law and Justice, Integrated Math II, Philosophy and Ethics, Science of Language, Fundamentals of Web Design, Hospitality and Tourism, Advanced Foods, Veterinary Science, etc.

* Current courses needing additional sections: Chemistry, Culinary Arts, Advanced Composition, Professional Communications, Physics, Art, Drawing, Pottery

While the subject of increased taxes is not a welcome subject, the job of the TFS administration and Board is to bring the issues to the voters and keep them informed.

We are very thankful to this community and the support it has provided for our schools. We have successfully accomplished the opening of our new high school and elementary wings this past fall. The unavoidable truth is that additional space has required additional operational funding. To staff these classrooms and programs requires a living wage for teachers and support staff. If TFS plans to continue to attract and retain quality staff, we must be competitive with other districts. A request for a mill levy comes with a pledge by the district for responsible stewardship of your tax dollars as we work to provide a high quality education that meets the needs of all students.

The TFS encourages everyone to vote at the upcoming election that will be a mail-in ballot.

If you are not registered to vote, you can pick up a form in one of our offices. Ballots are scheduled to be sent out on April 14th.

We welcome questions and comments from the community and will host an Open House of the Three Forks Schools at 5:30 p.m. and a Town Hall Meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 13th in the TFS Auditorium. There are five candidates running for the two open seats for the TFS School Board. The Town Hall Meeting will include "Meet the Candidates" as well as Mill Levy information.

Please take the time to become involved in your child's future. We hope to see you on the 13th and please remember to vote.

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