Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The last time the voters in the Target Range School District passed a mill levy request was when Apple introduced the first I-phone, way back in 2007; 16 years ago.

KGVO News spoke to Dr. Heather Davis Schmidt, the outgoing Target Range Elementary School Superintendent, who provided the almost unbelievable news about the lack of support from Target Range district voters.

The Last Time Target Range Passed a Mill Levy Increase CSI was a Popular TV Show

“The last time we had a general fund operating levy approved by the target range voters was 2007, so that was 16 years ago,” began Davis Schmidt. “As you can imagine, a lot of things have changed since then. We've had a lot of inflation, especially in the last few years. We certainly, as a school district, have run our school district very efficiently, but we're no longer able to do that effectively, and so we are asking the Target Range voters to approve a general fund operating levy that will allow us to support some wage and salary increases that will allow us to be competitive with school districts in the area.”

Davis Schmidt laid out the starting wage for support workers at the school.

“Our starting wage for our support staff is $13.76 per hour,” she said. “McDonald's (Restaurant) starting wage last I heard was $19 an hour, so it's very difficult for us to compete with those kinds of wages. And yet, if we were to talk about the basic underlying problem that Target Range School is experiencing, it's that we don't have a strong foundation of support workers. This includes our para-educators who serve as teacher aides in the classroom and support special needs students. We don't have food service workers or custodial workers. All of these individuals are absolutely critical to the functioning of the school.”

Davis Schmidt said teachers are doing double duty as crossing guards and other support tasks instead of preparing lesson plans and grading homework.

She explained what the school district is asking of the Target Range School District voters.

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Target Range is asking for an Increase of $3.16 a Month per Household

“So we're asking for about $3.16 per month based on the state-assessed market value of a $100,000 home, so $3.16 a month that's about the cost of a cup of coffee or a latte these days,” she said. “But we are asking ultimately for $375,000 as an additional fund to our general fund operating levy and the cost to the taxpayer would be about $3.16 a month.”

$3.16 a month.

Davis Schmidt was transparent about the current economic situation facing the Target Range School District and the people who serve their children.

“Just to put it in perspective, Target Range teacher's starting pay is $36,138,” she said. “Our median home price in Missoula is $600,000. Now, I don't know about you, Peter, but I don't think that $36,000 a year is a living wage. For a community with a $600,000 median home price, it would be very difficult even for a family of two teachers to consider purchasing a home in Missoula under those circumstances.”

One possible avenue for Target Range would be to become part of Missoula School District One, which would not be favorably received by Target Range District taxpayers.

“Some of our neighbors have suggested that Target Range should request to merge with Missoula County Public Schools,” she said. “That is certainly an option that Target Range could consider. Looking into that possibility, it looks like the elementary school taxes for Target Range would probably be about double if that were to happen, and in order for that to happen both the voters of Missoula County Public Schools and the voters of Target Range School District would have to agree to that. I, unfortunately, don't see Target Range School District voters voting in favor of doubling their elementary school taxes."

The Target Range School District mill levy request will be on the May 4 school election ballot.

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