Editor’s note: Since last Wednesday we have received several letters and other communications from local citizens expressing their disappointment over GFPS Superintendent Tammy Lacey’s comments after the voters voted against the districts requested $1.35M operational levy.
We’re publishing this letter because we feel it is well written and accurately represents the majority of comments, letters and other communications we have received. We are respecting the writers request for anonymity, not something we have made or will make a habit of, because the reasoning is sound and justified in this case, which we have verified.
I have a response to Tammy Lacey’s response to the vote, but wish to remain anonymous due to the heated environment that this vote has created. If you feel that you could use a viewpoint response to E-City Beat. Please let me know, and I would be happy to send it to you.
Superintendent Tammy Lacey, Great Falls Public School Board, Teachers, Administrators and Citizens of Great Falls:
I was astounded by the comments that Superintendent Tammy Lacey made regarding the recent tax levy. I am a property owner in Great Falls, and I have no qualms about saying that I voted ‘no’ on the recent school levy. Yes, I have a child going to school within the district, in the past I had voted ‘yes’ to the previous school levies.
I think that Tammy Lacey fails to really see what is going on in the personal lives and financial means of the bulk of citizens within the district. Every day we must make choices that affect our bank accounts. We have bills to pay and there have been recent property tax increases that were also affected by the increase in property values; in addition to the rise in costs for utilities and basic necessities. Add all this up to the fact that many of us are working good, full time jobs, but ones in which there have been no pay increases.
Right now, I feel blessed to have a good job that is full time, even if I am paying for the bulk of the benefits that are available. Yes, getting people to vote to tax themselves is hard especially when those people do not see raises, cost of living increases, and who must pay the brunt of any increase to their health insurance plans from their own pockets. I feel for the elderly in our community who also must choose between basic needs in order to live their lives such as groceries and medication or to fund the gap in the district’s finances.
I also want to point out that my vote would not have changed had I used a mail-in ballot, walked myself to the voting booth, or had to stand up and express my vote in public. You try to shame us regarding our vote, but it is our vote and our civic and democratic right. Please do not think that we take this lightly.
You should be ashamed of yourself as a voice for our teachers who instruct our children to think critically and for themselves that you would lump all ‘no’ voters into a category of those who “confused…their dislike of government” as a reason for voting against another school levy. Tammy Lacey, you do not know me nor my family, you do not know our struggles, and it is clear that you do not understand the struggles of the community that you plead for funds from.
“You should be ashamed of yourself as a voice for our teachers who instruct our children to think critically and for themselves that you would lump all ‘no’ voters into a category of those who “confused…their dislike of government” as a reason for voting against another school levy. Tammy Lacey, you do not know me nor my family, you do not know our struggles, and it is clear that you do not understand the struggles of the community that you plead for funds from.”
Not only do I work full time, I also go to school full time. I want to one day be able to look at my family’s finances and feel confident that voting yes and raising my property tax will not negatively affect our other needs and obligations as well as our want to support local businesses and charities. Maybe, instead of looking at the failed levy as an “us” against “them” scenario, you should look at it as many in the community also do: we are having to tighten our belts as individuals and as a community we are asking the school and other institutions to do the same thing.
I want to point out that many of the communities that recently saw the successful passing of levies also have seen the benefits of a surge in business and increased populations. While Great Falls has been stagnant in terms of population growth and have seen several business close or will be closing very soon, leading to some in our community to look for employment elsewhere and/or “cut the fat” from their expenses. You may say, but if we have vibrant schools and successful administrators it will encourage this type of growth. We were promised this with past levies and bonds, and yet have seen more businesses closing and dormant economic growth.
You chastise us like children Mrs. Lacey, but you fail to understand that we are adults that must make financial decisions based on income and expenses. We do not take joy in having to vote ‘no’, so now I will chastise you in failing to understand and empathize with the citizens of the district that you serve. A drop in the bucket for some may be a down pour for others.
This vote has made monsters out of all of us, including myself; I am disappointed that so many cannot see both sides of the coin and respectfully agree to disagree. I am also disappointed because I know there are ways to decrease budgets that do not affect our students or place in jeopardy the jobs of our teachers. The School District’s ‘Plan B’ feels more like a ‘we’ll show you all what happens when you don’t side with us’ scenario.
Because of the viciousness of this vote, I ask that I remain anonymous, not for myself, but because I fear that my ideals will be used against my child, who is a student in the Great Falls Public School District.