Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - New Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Micah Hill made his first live appearance on our KGVO Talk Back show on Tuesday, and had a lot to say about the upcoming school funding levies that will be voted on later this month.

I asked Hill specifically what School District One is asking from Missoula property taxpayers.

MCPS Superintendent Hill Talks about Operational and Safety Levies on the Ballot

“The first two that I'll talk about are what we refer to as operational levies,” began Hill. “In a really simplistic way, school budgets are capped. The state says, ‘here's your maximum budget, and it's based on the number of students you have. We are only going to fund 80 percent of that’. It’s like a glass of water that’s 80 percent full. Where's that other 20 percent come from? It comes from the local community, and so almost every year, the school districts across the state of Montana go to their local taxpayers and they ask, ‘will you please fund the rest of that gap between 80 percent and 100 percent to keep our schools open and running?’ They are operational levees.”

Hill broke down some of the numbers involved.

“Right now the two levies that we're looking at are one for elementary, and one for high school.” He said. “The elementary levy to get us to 100 percent is $105,000 which represents about 78 cents per year per $100,000 of assessed value, and then the other one for the high school side is around $400,000. Again, that gets us to that maximum budget and the cost on that is $1.65 a year per 100,000 of assessed value.”

Hill then described the proposed safety levies.

“We expend an inordinate amount of money on school safety, so we’re asking our community to support that Safety Levy,” he said. “It's a new tool that the legislature created a couple of sessions ago where we can come to our community and say, ‘Would you please support paying for safety out of this levy as opposed to out of our general fund?’ On the elementary side, we're asking for a million and a half, and on the high school side, it's $1 million.”

KGVO Asked Hill What would happen if the Levies Failed

I asked Hill about a ‘worst case scenario’ in which all the levies fail.

“Plan A is the worst, that no levees pass and we've cut deep into our schools,” he said. “Our class sizes are going to go up there's no question. Programs are getting cut; services are being reduced. The safety levees are really where its at. With the safety levies we'll be able to shift our expenditures from general fund like school resource officers, behavior interventionists, school counselors, and school psychologists; people who are on the prevention side of things to the safety levy, freeing up budget capacity at the in the general fund.”

Hill Acknowledged Missoulians' 'Tax Fatigue'

Superintendent Hill acknowledged Missoula’s current case of ‘tax fatigue’, with higher property taxes, the fire department levy and these requests from MCPS, but asked residents to fully fund their public schools.

He also agreed to appear once a month on Talk Back to answer questions from KGVO listeners.

Ballots for the school election will be mailed out on April 17, and are due back on Election Day, May 7.

Click here to find out more about the MCPS funding requests.

Click here to listen to the entire hour’s conversation with Superintendent Micah Hill.

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