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Voters reminded to mail ballots for school elections — polls open in three school districts on May 2

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | April 28, 2023 12:00 AM

Ballots are due May 2 for registered voters living in school districts that are holding mail-ballot elections. Ballots may be mailed or hand-delivered, but are due in a voter’s respective district by 8 p.m.

Mail-ballot elections are underway in Cayuse Prairie, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Kila and Olney-Bissell school districts. Voters are reminded to sign the outer envelope containing their ballots before returning it. Envelopes must be signed by the person who was issued the ballot.

Polls will only be open in the three school districts holding walk-in elections on May 2: Deer Park, Swan River and Whitefish.

Polls will be open at Deer Park School from noon to 8 p.m. Deer Park is located at 2105 Middle Road in Columbia Falls. In Swan River, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the school library, 1205 Swan Highway, Bigfork. In Whitefish, polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the district office, 600 E. Second St., Whitefish.

West Valley School District has canceled its $300,000 general fund levy request. On its website, www.westvalleyschool.com, the district has posted notice of the cancellation. It directs voters to “Please disregard the current ballots.”

“We will consider running another levy soon,” it reads.

West Valley School District Business Manager and Clerk, Cecilia Lewellen, who serves as the district’s election administrator, said in an email that the election “was canceled due to a missed deadline of the board declaring a levy amount.”

“The board will discuss options for rerunning it at a later date,” she wrote.

Contested trustee elections are being held in Cayuse Prairie, Columbia Falls, Deer Park, Kalispell, Kila, Swan River and Whitefish.

CAYUSE PRAIRIE, Kalispell, Olney-Bissell and Whitefish school districts have put levies on the ballots. With the exception of Olney-Bissell, these school districts are seeking approval of general fund levies.

General fund levies cover a broad range of day-to-day costs related to educating students and operating and maintaining facilities. This includes teacher salaries, textbooks and supplies, utilities and technology, for example. General fund levies, once approved, are typically permanent. Olney-Bissell put a building reserve levy on the ballot for facility improvements.

Cayuse Prairie School District has a $300,000 general fund levy on the ballot. According to the Superintendent and Principal Amy Piazzola, the district hasn’t asked for approval of a general fund levy since 2005. If supported by voters, owners of homes with assessed values of $300,000 can anticipate annual taxes to increase by $161.64.

Ballots may be hand-delivered at the school, 897 Lake Blaine Road, Kalispell.

Kalispell Public Schools’ general fund levy requests are for its high school and elementary districts.

The high school general fund levy request is for $2,490,973. Taxpayers living in the high school district, which includes Kalispell and 13 outlying partner districts whose students attend Flathead and Glacier high schools, get to vote on this issue. The last time a high school levy passed was in 2007. If approved, owners of homes with assessed values of $300,000 can expect annual taxes to increase by $60.89.

The elementary general fund levy request is for $354,327. Only Kalispell taxpayers may vote on this issue. If approved, owners of homes with assessed values of $300,000 can expect annual taxes to increase by $20.11.

Ballots may be hand-delivered at the district transportation building, 514 E. Washington St., Kalispell.

Olney-Bissell’s building reserve levy will generate a total of approximately $795,795 — about $53,053 a year for 15 years — if approved. Money raised by the levy would be used to fund improvement projects, including installing a new septic system, replacing the existing school building roof cover and excavation work to set up a modular building.

The modular building would be bought with existing funds. Any remaining funding would be used to replace exterior doors on the school and repair fencing.

If approved, owners of homes with an assessed value of $300,000 can anticipate annual taxes to increase by $52.65.

Whitefish School District has a $231,766 general fund levy request on the ballot to benefit its elementary district. If approved, owners of homes with assessed values of $300,000 can anticipate annual taxes to increase by $10.23.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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