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Letter: Asking for support of Operational Mill Levy

Dear Editor,

As a teacher and resident in the Three Forks School District for over 20 years, I am asking for public support for the upcoming operational mill levy for three main reasons. 

First, the students in our district are down-to-earth, hard-working, bright individuals who thrive when given various opportunities inside and outside the classroom. From FFA to FCCLA, from the basketball court to the softball field, from the pep band to drama club, and from the middle school English class to AP Calculus, I witness each day the magic that happens when we provide students with a supportive environment to explore their talents and abilities. Three Forks does a fantastic job of providing a range of opportunities for our students, and the thought that we’d have to limit these because of budget restraints saddens me greatly. Providing students with a foundation in both their academic journey and their personal development through extra and co curricular activities is one of the things we do best and one of the advantages of a school our size.  

Second, the teachers and staff (paraprofessionals, custodians, secretaries, and kitchen staff) continually impress and inspire me with the dedication, passion, purpose and creativity that they bring to their jobs.  Many of these staff members contribute not just to the school but also to the community as a whole with their roles in churches, sports teams, 4H, and spousal jobs. 

But it takes time to get better at our jobs, and it takes support from a team. When we lose staff to higher paying districts or because they can’t afford to be a teacher, it takes precious time and resources to start the process over. Unfortunately, this has become more common in the past few years. Passing this levy means not only a boost in wages for the staff, but also means they will have the funds to keep innovating, developing student programs, and delivering strong instruction (i.e. with smaller class size and valuable curricular materials). 

Finally, I have great pride in our community. When the voters passed a building bond in the middle of a pandemic, I had no idea how our school could be transformed into the place it is today. On a daily basis having a facility with ample space for learning and programs has been beneficial for both students and staff. In addition, the community benefits from the improved facilities through events we now host that bring business to the community and through programs like adult education. Unfortunately, the increased costs in utilities, insurance, and maintenance are the same inflationary impacts we all feel in our household budgets. As a result, we are faced with an unfortunate dilemma: we have no choice but to ask taxpayers who face these increases to vote for funds to help pay for the same inflation of costs in the district. My hope is understanding this reality may help alleviate some of the concerns about the allocation of the levied funds. 

As increases in property taxes have hit everyone’s monthly budgets, asking for taxpayers to open their wallets again is a difficult task, and it feels like one more thing added to a long list of expenses. The home my husband and I built falls in the upper levels of taxable valuation for the district; still, our increase each month looks to be about only $20. (Please keep in mind taxable valuation isn’t the same number as a home’s market value). I understand there are reasons people have for voting no from feeling financial stress to concerns about fiscal management. However, I view the YES VOTE as an opportunity to invest in the health and wellbeing of our children and the community as a whole. Take my word for it, these kids and staff are worth it! 

Sandra Cutler, Middle and High School English Teacher

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