Great Falls Taxpayers Speak Out Against GFPS Levy

In a phone conversation I had with Brian Patrick, director of financial operations for Great Falls Public Schools, on Wednesday, April 18, he confirmed that we have not yet seen the full impact to our taxes from the 100-million-dollar bond that was recently passed.

“…we have not yet seen the full impact to our taxes from the 100-million-dollar bond that was recently passed.”

Since only two-thirds of the bonds had been sold by the time tax statements went out, we were only assessed that percentage of taxes. We still have another 33% (of the total bond) increase coming on this November’s tax bill as the remainder of the bonds were recently sold.

Thousands of individual homeowners and business people alike were stunned at the level of increase to their property taxes when bills arrived last November.

You ain’t seen nothing yet. There is more pain coming. Another good reason to vote against the school levy on May 8.

Cyndi Baker

We are being asked to approve yet another school levy. I am a business owner. Anyone who knows what hurts businesses the most knows it is taxes. Anyone who owns a business knows this. A business can find investors when they can show there would be a return, making that investment a wise choice. When we are taxed, we are all forced to invest in whatever the requesting party asks, whether or not there is a return.

How can a levy that will pay for raises and health insurance be good for the kids? In business there is a saying called buyer beware. This applies in this case. Will the school pay for our health insurance when we can’t afford it because we were sweet talked into paying someone else’s? I don’t think so.

“Will the school pay for our health insurance when we can’t afford it because we were sweet talked into paying someone else’s? I don’t think so.”

Since this levy goes to property owners, renters beware. Do not think that just because you rent you are immune from this tax. Who do you pay rent to? The property owner, that’s who, so we are all affected. Teachers should be teachers, not tax collectors. Remember the spider and the fly story or the frog in lukewarm water? We are the fly and the frog.

Keith Verros – Great Falls Businessman


  1. So, at this point ecitybeat has totally given up any pretense of being a news site. That’s OK, just call it like it is. It is an anti-tax, anti-establishment advocacy platform.

    • I’m happy they are pointing out the reality of this levy. People need to quit buying into “it’s for the children” BS line they keep selling us. Keep it up ecity beat. Anti-establishment is what we’re fighting here anyway.

      • This is not the reality of this levy. Last year’s levy, mentioned at the beginning of this opine piece, was to replace crumbling (literally) infrastructure. This levy is to bridge the divide between insufficient yearly funding increases and inflation.

        Operational costs have been increasing by ~4% yearly while funding has increased by <2%. Do the math. The district has been slashing budgets to keep up. Sure the district administration isn't perfect, but they're doing a good job with what we have given them.

    • I like hearing both sides of a story. Ecitybeat presents one side. There are plenty of people presenting the other side. Thanks ecitybeat for speaking out from a different pestspective. Thank God for that first amendment!

    • Please add anti-lying, anti-corruption, anti-cronyism, anti-double dealing, ant-bigotry, and anti-bullying.

  2. I enjoy Voltaire, the philosopher who believed that leaders should first be servants, that governance was instituted to serve the people, that there should be no hierarchy, that he who is king was a fortunate soldier. Voltaire opposed injustice that lead to unbalanced social order. True government leads to justice, stability and restricted power directed by a constitution that promotes equality among its citizenry. “All men are equal, not by birth but by virtue,” Voltaire said. He believed that people are inherently selfish, that most leaders get carried away by their own interests instead of by virtue…that forgotten notion of putting civic duty before private interest. He believed that everything in life is either a punishment or a test and fortunate is the man who accepts the test. Any quest for total objectivity is, therefore, unrealistic and allows any or all negative sentiments and rules to govern. Ross, do you suffer “butthurt” by hearing the truth?

  3. I have heard that the best way to get to a liberal is to simply tell them the truth. It seems that the truth that is spoken here has struck the nerves of those who don’t like the truth. Ever wonder why the official paper of the former USSR was called “Pravda”, which means “truth”? How much “truth” did it really print?

  4. in 1973, National Lampoon ran a magazine cover that said: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll shoot this dog.” The cover depicted a wary looking dog with a revolver next to his head. Needless to say, it worked and they sold a bunch of magazines not to mention the ASPCA went bonkers. It seems to me, the GFPS officials always use the same tactic: “If you don’t approve this levy, we will cut… or the sky will fall, kids will suffer, etc. etc.

    • Actually, the dog has not been killed and will never be. Rather, it will be beaten down, disrespected, and starved, as it has for the past 8 years or so.

  5. I had hoped that as a community we were past the point of implying that folks who disagree with some GFPS policies or who are opposed to another school tax increase are “negative”, don’t really care about the kids or the community, are ignorant of school funding, are just plain ignorant or don’t understand what’s at stake.

    I had hoped we were past the point of personally attacking people and calling them “butt hurt” and sore losers because they dare to disagree with the usual school district cheerleaders.

    I had hoped we were past the point of virtue signaling and claims of moral superiority by those who think we should all just do whatever the school board or school district demands whenever they demand it.

    I had hoped that we could have an adult conversation about these issues but it’s obvious from some of the comments here from those who refuse to consider the possibility that perhaps the solution is not more money but better management and policies, that my hopes have been dashed.

    • Agreeing to disagree is a dying art. I’ve never voted for a levy request, nor do I intend to start. After the last shock of the jump in my property taxes from the $98 million debacle, and the blatant waste of taxpayer dollars, enough is enough. If the GFPS admin cannot negotiate and or plan for cost increases, maybe they need to find another line of work. We have to factor in cost of living increases since I don’t have anyone to pay for mine.

    • Rick,
      The conversation should be that it costs money to run an effective, competitive school district. Costs, over the past several years, are far more than funding, even after extensive belt-tightening.
      What appears to be being argued here is that some people wish to invest in our schools and others feel as though they have already invested enough.
      The facts are fairly clear, but opinions and feelings are not swayed by facts.

      • I appreciate your perspective here. Let me turn it around a bit using a version of your own words –

        “The conversation should be that it costs money to run an effective, household & family. Costs, over the past several years, are far more than funding, even after extensive belt-tightening.”

        GF is a stagnant, economically challenged community with a great many people living on poverty wages and fixed incomes. We are being asked to pay a seemingly endless barrage of “latte” taxes every time we turn around to the city, state, county and school district.

        When folks look at their local tax bills it isn’t “opinions and feelings” they see – it’s an ever increasing cost of living and tax burden without the increasing income to pay for it. That’s a fact.

        • I pretty much agree, though I find myself putting a more optimistic spin on our town and its future.
          The truly impoverished, for the most part, don’t vote or own property, or give a rip about the levy. Those on fixed incomes, who could potentially be harmed by this tax increase, are eligible for property tax relief.
          No one wants more taxes, but they’re necessary to get things done. This levy is not “latte” but rather Folger’s Crystals.

  6. We need to know that A. Teacher is a member of a union. The union dictates what, how, when, and just about everything you are to say and do. Comey complained that Trump wanted loyalty. Unions are more dictatorial and controlling then anyone. If you don’t play by the union rules, you can find yourself in a spot. Did you know when the union advocates striking, is only affects the rank and file? The bosses do not suffer. Back in the 60s when I was younger, my uncle was a union boss in a local union in the city we lived. I remember to this day when he came over to see my dad and talked that the rank and file okayed the strike. He then showed off his brand new Cadillac. For those who are not from that era, the Cadillac was a status symbol of the day. As for saying, “It’s for the kids..” Remember when Lacey used kids to get the bond passed? Remember when younger students were used in ads? Younger ones who didn’t know what really was happening? Was that not exploiting? Looking up the definition of “exploit” we find: (to) make full use of and derive a benefit from (a resource).The children were used and a benefit was the desired result. How pretty the surroundings are has nothing to do with the quality of education. A new environment won’t matter if the student has no desire to learn for themselves.

    • What? Troll alert! Union lapdog, Comey, Trump, Lacey, child exploitation? Stick to the facts, sir and save your tinfoil for baking potatoes.

      • There’s nothing “tinfoil” about calling out Great Falls Public School’s for its use of emotionally-based arguments to sway public opinion, as in “it’s for the children” when, in actuality, it is not for the children. So perhaps you should redirect your suggestion to “stick to the facts” to GFPS, since that entity seems to have a problem with presenting the truth.

  7. Keith and Jeni, I must apologize for my sharp-tongued reply. It was out of character certainly detracted from the conversation.

    Let’s try this, instead:
    Keith, please stay on topic. I’m no union patsy, and adding so many other issues to the conversation takes focus away from the issue at hand. I’m simply a citizen, concerned that other well-intended citizens are being misled on this issue.

    Full transparency here: I’m a teacher, I’m in this for kids and I get paid for this, these levy $ will go to support me and my colleagues in supporting kids in our community. I could do ANY job, but choose to support children.
    For me and my family, this is for the kids.

    • A.Teacher, I don’t question your dedication to teaching. However, I think GFPS administrators and school board fail to consider the economic realities and opinions of others that will also be paying the bill if this levy passes.

      My husband works in a somewhat dangerous occupation. A mistake by him or by someone around him, could lead to his death or someone else’s death–literally. For working 12-14 hour days and spending much time away from home, he gets paid less than any of the GFPS administrators and principals. Consider the law enforcement officers that put their lives on the line every day. They too, earn less than GFPS administrators and principals. Also, the average wage in Great Falls is arguably somewhere around $13-14 per hour. So, I think I’m safe in saying that many people in Great Falls feel that certain GFPS employees are making exorbitant amounts of money, all things considered, and that it just shouldn’t be that way.

      Our health insurance payment doubled this year. Many people are in that same boat. Yet the rest of us have no levy to cover our health insurance increase. We must pay the difference ourselves.

      I also don’t appreciate that GFPS appears deceptive in their promotion of this levy. For example, in the GFPS Facility Action Plan powerpoint pdf (on their website), they have a slide listing schools built by decade. Central School/Paris Gibson Square, built in 1896 is listed as the oldest school building, but it isn’t used for students, it is leased to Paris Gibson Square. So that’s a little misleading, even though they do mention it is leased elsewhere in the document. GFHS-South Campus is listed in the right hand column as newest, built in 1998. Yet, on the same slide, they list no buildings built in the 1990’s. I don’t get that. They also list the average age of their school buildings as 58 years but is that accurate considering they listed Paris Gibson Square as a school building? And how is the age of a building relevant anyway? The age of a building isn’t indicative of the usability or condition of the building.

      Some may say, all of that doesn’t matter. But any falsehoods matter to me.

  8. I am not extremely supportive of either side in this discussion, although I am a retiree, home-owner, and on a fixed income. Consequently, the never-ending tax increases worry me. I just wonder why the city and the school district don’t seem to look for other alternatives to raising taxes? I don’t want to focus on the problem without offering a possible solution, so here goes. I.E. Step-1: sell some unnecessary assets. A start would be the old and dilapidated Russell Elementary school so the property could be used for urban development. Step-2: use some of the funds to build a metal storage structure on existing school district property (like the open field next to the district offices). Step-3: use the remaining funds to support the district operating budget.

    This is just a small example of processes that might be considered instead of a levy request. This might be considered foolish or labeled a “finger in the dike” approach. I’m just throwing the idea out there. I hope this isn’t offensive to anyone.

  9. The only way I’d want to give the district more money is to hire more teachers, thus decreasing the student load per teacher. That’s it. Everything else, from technology to building updates to administrators, is extraneous and doesn’t help the kids. Just my two cents as a long-time teacher.

  10. So A. Teacher says this is for the kids? Really?? SO how does paying for your health insurance directly help the kids? It certainly helps YOUR kids in that should you get sick, you will get treated and your quality of life will be better. In the meantime, someone who gets roped into paying your insurance (should this pass) may not have the same treatment available because their limited budget’s expense for THEIR insurance went to YOU. Are we being misled? If you read the wording in the ballot, “The durational limit of the levy is PERMANENT once approved by the voters,” then yes, we are being misled in that it will remain in perpetuity. Have we been told this? Also, when you ask a liberal (or one who an only see what they want to see and follow orders) they don’t answer questions put to them, and feel that any subtext that expands the situation at hand is taking away from the issue. In reality, it adds to and brings to light the “rest of the story”, as the late, great Paul Harvey would say.

  11. Keith,
    Let me paraphrase and retort to see if I caught you…
    -you don’t like that a portion of teachers’ health insurance is part of their contracted income. That is how business is done in capitalist economies.
    -you want all kids to benefit from me having insurance, not just my students. Perhaps a benefit to a few will one eventually benefit many?
    -you missed the other things that this levy will fund: support staff, electricity, gas, water, light bulbs, paint, toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, light bulbs, paper, printer cartridges, print services, and so on, ad nauseum. All of these are increasing in cost at an astonishing rate, but are required for the district to operate.
    -you are not being misled; you answered your own question. Yes the levy is perpetual, as will be future levies, unless we find other ways to fund schools or the costs of running a school decrease.

    This, for the record, isn’t a liberal vs conservative argument. This is an I don’t like taxes vs I don’t like taxes, but realize that some things of importance cost money so I’ll pay for them, argument. (Rick, I didn’t even use the phrase ‘butt hurt” though it would have been perfect here)
    Also, for the record, the district insurance has been getting skimpier every year. Our family uses the plan paid for by my spouse’s employer.
    Finally, for the rest of the story, if you do not see the benefits of strong, well-supported public education for our community, then all this typing is moot. Property values: up. Business opportunities: up. Individual income: up. Attractiveness to businesses: up. People in our community who you actually want to be around: up. Even you win!

    • You don’t win when your child is a month from graduation and now finally FINALLY someone in the district has noticed that your child is struggling to graduate and someone listened to your concerns. This district has been failing its students and parents for the past decade. My children are not receiving the same quality education that I received in the late 90’s. It is not our fault, and it is not our children’s fault, it’s the bloated synchophant educational system we currently have in place. After all, why should they care when they make as much or more than a large percentage of the district’s population? Your jobs are secured once you receive tenure, your retirement is assured, as is your health insurance. This must be lovely and a comfort as the district continues to let more and more children slip through the cracks in this educational system.

      • I’m sorry that your child was ignored for so long during the year, but glad that someone cared enough to finally recognize his/her struggles.
        I hear you- it is maddening that some teachers, staff and admin become so distant from the needs of a student because they are so blinded by the almighty dollar, position and all that goes with it; that said student gets lost and forgotten.
        I think that things can get muddled somewhere between the thought of “I’ll make a difference in a child’s life” and “I get how much !?” A lot of perspective is thrown to the wayside when money, power and position is added to the mix.

  12. I’ll add my two cents into this discussion…. I helped grade papers when I was a junior in high school- I had numerous teachers in my family, (still have). I also raised four children who attended schools. So, there’s probably not much I haven’t heard. I now have 19 (nearly 20) grandchildren- some attend public school- but most are home schooled and excel at their studies. (That’s another story)
    My parents (both were teachers) taught me to use common sense, and I did what I could to pass that common sense down to my children, and now have that opportunity to include my grandchildren with that wisdom.
    That common sense includes learning to live within your means, own up to and don’t make others pay for your mistakes, be honest, resourceful, thrifty, and help others who need help. BUT- you need to use that common sense to help determine what help others REALLY need over what they want you to believe they need. There is a big difference.
    My dad worked 2 jobs when I was young, we all went to school, we worked in the garden, and my mom baked, froze and canned food to feed all 7 of us. They scrimped and saved, and somehow our braces, broken bones, and torn ligaments were all covered by insurance that they paid for themselves. We were not rich by any means- but we made do.
    We were always told to stop complaining, suck it up and find a way. And we did.
    I’m just so sick of hearing that the public needs to bail out problems that could have been avoided or dealt with another way.
    Just my common sense to share with you. 🙂


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