The Whole Truth

Are we getting the whole truth about the $13.9 million in new levies that the Great Falls Public School District ($1.348 million) and the City of Great Falls ($12.6 million) wants us to approve? And if we, the taxpayers, don’t approve them will that cause the dire consequences listed in their distributed promotional materials?

Okay Chicken Littles, let’s take a look.

First, the taxpayers of this city just got done giving the school district nearly a tenth of billion dollars only 18 months ago. Yes, that’s right, a tenth of a BILLION dollars! Oh right, that money can only go to building and repair projects, and this year’s request of $1.348 million is for operational costs. So what? It matters far less to taxpayers which District accounts the money goes into than which accounts it comes out of: OURS! All of it.

“Oh right, that money can only go to building and repair projects, and this year’s request of $1.348 million is for operational costs. So what? It matters far less to taxpayers which District accounts the money goes into than which accounts it comes out of: OURS! All of it.”

Many of our neighbors and families live on fixed incomes, not like the school district and the City, and just can’t afford higher taxes. We have all heard about elderly people cutting back on their medical prescriptions because they can’t afford the never-ending taxes and costs of living increases that are forced upon them.

The school district treats taxpayers like a checking account with overdraft protection.

And, is the school district really cutting back on expenses? In a January 16, 2018 Email from Superintendent Tammy Lacey she said this:

“I confirm that the number of administrators increased by one, but contended that quantity of work and more importantly, the quality of the work (given Shelly’s and Susan’s previous experiences) are worth adding to the administrative footprint. As I have said, every time an administrator leaves our organization, it is a good to re-evaluate. Sometimes the re-evaluation reduces the footprint and as in this case, sometimes it increases it. The Bottom line for either outcome is what is best for student outcomes.”

Oh really?

The enrollment trend has been down, not UP for the Great Falls School District over the last 20 plus years from well over 12,000 students to just over 10,000 students. Should it also mean a reduction in personnel? You would think so because if it was the other way around the District would have cried that they needed more staff.

The enrollment for the school year 2007-2008 was 10,985, this year it is 10,449, a decrease of over 500 students in the past 10 years. Enrollment was down about 100 students last year alone.

To add insult to injury, the huge majority of the proposed $1.348 million levy goes to “Contractual Obligations”, added health insurance premiums and raises, and that includes administrators making six figures.

Are we living in the Twilight Zone, or what? Just tell us the Truth, we can handle it and vote accordingly. We know who needs a “footprint”, and where!

Please take our poll on the upcoming GFPS tax increase.

[poll id=”11″]

Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

Reader interactions

15 Replies to “The Whole Truth”

  1. Not to mention all the money the schools get from other sources like the lottery program, fundraising, ect. Where’s the money going? I want to know because it’s not going to building maintenance or teachers as both are struggling to survive. For years citizens have been paying into the schools, who have neglected buildings and staff! Where is the money going that’s what people want to know, so I’ll vote no until they show where years of tax and other school fund sources are going.


  2. No, both my sister and I are on fixed incomes. We need to improve the yard and garage where we live. We don’t have any kids in school. Not our problem.


  3. Definitely NOT! I don’t ask the taxpayers for a raise for me AND I pay my own outrageous health insurance premiums. JEEZ! We just gave them money. I suggest that they use that $ more wisely. I, for one, am sick of it! Greedy, greedy, greedy. Maybe the superintendent of schools should take a bit of a pay cut cuz her pay scale is outrageous!


  4. Cory, I would agree with you on questioning why didn’t the district maintain the buildings they already had–where indeed did the money go? I also read somewhere that they didn’t have an overall building maintenance plan–why not?

    But my opinion is that the Great Falls teachers are far from struggling. They make significantly more than the average for Montana teachers and they do have quite a bit of free time in the summer. When you look at what the average Great Falls person earns from working year-round with no summer break, the local educators have it pretty good.

    In January, Montana Education Association/Montana Teachers Federation (MEA-MFT) joined forces with Montana Public Employees Association (MPEA) and became the MFPE–about 25,000 members strong and arguably a huge voting bloc for the state of Montana. The Montana public education system previously exerted a major amount of power in this state because they already were a big union. But now, with the merger with public employees, which by the way includes state and local government employees, they have even more power. The MEA-MFT’s Committee on Political Education or COPE works to help elect their union members to the state legislature, giving them the power to legislate in their favor. And now they’ve got the public employees behind them as well as an affiliation with the AFL-CIO.

    Seems like it could, or may already be, a shadow government–hidden power from within with public employees and MFPE union members in the legislature. There’s virtually no stopping them.


  5. Curtiss Cooper April 10, 2018 at 8:20 PM

    I will not vote yes. Too many overpaid administrators and miss management of money.


  6. I vote NO!!! Question?? Yesterday I say a couple putting yard signs up in SUPPORT of the Levy and City Park vote. You do a wonderful informing us on E-Ciity, but how can we like-minded, common folk, who do Not have the resources to put up signs, pass out flyers, and convince others like us to VOTE? My husband and I, retired teachers on fixed income, would love to help get the word out. Oh, they put a sign in front of Paris Gibson Square. We need signs in prominent locations as well. Could a group be formed (or is there one already) to brainstorm ideas on how to get the word out to more people???


    1. Philip M. Faccenda April 11, 2018 at 8:18 AM

      Hi Sue, Please give me a call at 406-868-9235 and I will give you a way to help get the word out.
      Thank you for wanting to help.


  7. Let’s look at how much is spent per student in MT. Here’s a link that spells out each state, but MT spends $11,082.00 per student.
    This levy is simply a way for the district to cover their backsides because they have let the teacher’s unions paint them into this corner with poor negotiating skills. So now, we the taxpayers, get to dump more money into the ever expanding Black Hole. Here’s another article that spells out funding issues to put it all into perspective:


    1. Mike, good article in the Federalist–thanks for the link. So true, from the article:

      “….research finds teachers are overpaid by an average of 50 percent relative to their skills and mental abilities. The overage comes almost exclusively from their fat benefit packages.”

      This article reminded me that we’re not the only ones facing these issues with public schools. In my opinion, the US public education system is broken and needs a complete overhaul.


      1. A River Patriot April 18, 2018 at 9:13 AM

        Teacher here, and can confirm… Half the teachers I work with have master’s degrees in “education” they bought online from degree mills. But it increases their salary by 10k, so of why not? They’re all mostly extremely nice people, very high empathy–but they couldn’t write a decent essay or read a book to save their own lives. Don’t even get me started on administrators. They make even the worst teachers look like Rhodes Scholars.


  8. Sue Ashley- write a letter to the editor and post these articles on your Facebook page


  9. They sit around and brag to other school/districts about all the money they have in the bank!!
    Use what you are sitting on and quit asking for more every year! We are taxed out.


  10. Vance Gilbraith April 12, 2018 at 11:28 AM

    Fire half or more of the Administrators. The savings in paper shuffling alone would free up huge sums.


    1. Philip M. Faccenda April 12, 2018 at 1:56 PM

      Vance, I think you might be on to something. If you take the standard multiplier of 3.0 times the employee’s salary you will get the actual cost of an employee which includes health insurance, 401K, retirement, vacation and other overhead costs. So if superintendent Tammy Lacey is making $140,000 per year, she is actually costing the District about $420,000 a year, just short of a half million dollars. Last I saw was that the two assistant superintendents make about $100,000, so they cost us about $300,000 each per year. Three positions costing over a Million dollars a year. Wow!


  11. Cant see where to vote in the poll. I vote NO. (If its the one from January, I just found it.)


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