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Three Forks Schools Mill Levy FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the district need a general fund mill levy?

The operational costs for the district’s general fund have dramatically increased over these past three years due to the rising cost of gas, electricity, phone & data, property & liability insurance, and grounds, custodial & maintenance costs. Besides building expansion and inflationary impact, an additional contributing factor has been the end of ESSER (Covid) relief funding. Over the past four years ESSER funding has assisted the district budget by covering a variety of operational expenses including custodial, curriculum needs, staffing costs, technology, and student programming. The district has used this funding wisely to help offset operational costs but will no longer have this source of revenue due to governmental final funding allotments.

What will the Mill Levy be used for?

The funds from this Mill Levy will be used for the purpose of funding the projected budget shortfall due to rising costs in general operations including utilities, data services, property & liability insurance, custodial /maintenance services resulting from inflationary effects and increased facility size, as well as a cost-of-living salary increase for staff. Specifically, the proposed levy approved by the TFS School Board includes the following:

What is the current starting salary of a beginning teacher at TFS?

The beginning base salary is currently $36,610

A 5% increase to the base would result in a $38,441 base salary

What programs are available to assist low-income or fixed income families with their taxes?

There are programs that offer property tax assistance for taxpayers who qualify. The Montana Department of Revenue provides an application for tax assistance that can reduce taxes up to 80%. More info can be found at

There is also a Montana Elderly Homeowner / Renter Credit that provides income tax credit based on a ratio of income and rent or taxes. More info can be found at

How much can the district ask for?

Every district in Montana is given a maximum budget that can be levied locally. The TFS District is not requesting the maximum allowable budget. After deliberation and discussion, the TFS Board of Education unanimously approved a $504,234 Elementary Mill Levy and a $176,154 High School Mill Levy with an overall total of $680,388 which is significantly less than the maximum allowable amount of $867,626 for the 2024-25 school year.

Who determines if there is a mill levy?

The TFS Administration & staff presented four options for consideration to the TFS School Board. The Board unanimously approved a mill levy for both the elementary and for the high school. Registered voters will choose whether to approve or deny this recommendation when it appears on the May ballot. Ballots will be mailed out April 19th and the election will be May 7th. Ballots may be mailed in or deposited in an election drop off location at the Three Forks High School entrance.

How will a mill levy affect my taxes?

Based on the 2023 tax base of assessed value, this levy will increase property taxes as indicated on the chart below for each district (elementary and high school) as well as for both combined. The chart provides both an annual as well as a monthly cost increase.

As the tax base increases with time, the burden on individual taxpayers is reduced. You may look up your assessed market valuation at the following link:

How does the TFS District compare to surrounding districts?

TFS is significantly below the maximum budget allowed as compared to surrounding districts.

How has the district used additional federal & state funding related to COVID Relief?

The district has had an allotment of ESSER Funds (federal funding related to COVID) that end this school year. Any unused funds over the course of the grant cycles are lost to districts and reappropriated to other districts or agencies. These funds have specific restrictions that have allowed the TFS district to provide the following:

* New playground structure

* Replacement windows for improved ventilation

* Counseling and Behavior Support staff

* Cleaning supplies & equipment

* Increase in cleaning / custodial costs

* Technology needs

* Clear Touch Boards

* Chromebooks

* Networking equipment

* Summer Programming

* Friday Programming

With the ending of ESSER funds, the district must now absorb any of those recurring expenses / costs within the general operating budget.

Why hasn’t the district used any remaining funds from the 2020 Bond for operational costs or to “pay ongoing bills”?

Bonds are used to finance building projects, construction, or real estate purchases. Mill levies are for operational costs. Expenditures from each are limited to a specific scope and language. The recent bond passed for the TFS building project has specific language that limits the expenditure of funds to identified construction projects only. The district has managed bond funds wisely during construction and has also earned interest money on those bonds. Final projects will be completed this summer including sidewalk replacement and parking lot resurfacing along Neal St. Again, these funds can only be used for capital projects that are included in the original bond language.

The mill levy is specifically for operational costs that have inevitably increased as a result of the additional 38,000 square feet of space. These operational costs are occurring due to related staffing, custodial, grounds, maintenance, liability insurance and utility expenses.

How do I know if our tax dollars are being managed wisely?

The TFS presents all claims in public forums each month. Claims are reviewed and approved by administration and by the Board of Trustees. Additionally, an independent audit is performed each year and the findings are shared in a public meeting. The most recent audit report was very positive and was shared with the public during our March Board meeting and is available for review.