All the evidence indicates that the truth fairy made a visit to the Great Falls Public Schools Budget Committee last week when they recommended that no levy be placed before the voters as part of the May 7th school district election.
But before you feel free to spend that would-be tax increase, please remember that the issue isn’t settled until the entire school board votes on the issue. As some have suggested, you might want to attend the school board meeting on Monday to voice your No-Levy support.
The truth fairy’s visit to the budget committee was more of a gentle tap on the shoulder, rather than an in-your-face confrontation. Still one school board trustee, Jeff Gray, seemed to get the message on several levels. Now it might also be the case that since trustee Gray is running for reelection, he also could have been reading the tea leaves.
Jeff Gray gave the reason that the budget committee made the decision to recommend against a levy this spring is because the voters still don’t understand the difference between levies and bonds. Does he really think we are that stupid, or is it just another excuse?
According to the Great Falls Tribune, Gray also said “…if they don’t do a levy there will be about $1 million in cuts they will have to make. All those things will continue to be felt. Maybe not seen by the public, but they are felt by the staff…the students will feel it”.
One area where cuts will not be felt, administrator’s salaries, and you can take that to the bank!
Of course, the committee’s decision to recommend that another million-dollar levy should not be attempted at this time, brought tears to the eyes of outgoing superintendent Tammy Lacy who was, as reported by the Tribune, “heartbroken”.
In addition, according to an item in The Electric school board chairman Jan Cahill stated the following: “To the people who want to vote no on school levies, shame on them,”
The more significant revelation from trustee Gray came when he admitted the truth: “With public school funds continuing to decrease, there are harder long-term decisions that will have to be taken into consideration, such as consolidating schools.”
This is a reality that Tammy Lacey has in the past rejected out-of-hand, but that any serious planning would dictate. Consider this; Billings has a population of 125,000 and has 22 elementary schools, Great Falls has a population of 58,000 and has 15 elementary schools.
Several of our schools on the east end of town were built when Malmstrom Air Force Base was going strong but are now not strategically located for our current and future populations, and could be integrated into other existing schools which are sited to allow for expansion.
That’s just one example and there are more potential consolidation opportunities.
The truth is that Great Falls is not, and likely will not be booming anytime soon. The Truth Fairy who tapped Jeff Gray is right, not the Sugar Plumb fairies that the school administrators and decision-making community crony leaders are listening to.
The sad truth is that we probably spent $50M before we woke up, if we are truly awake.