NewsLocal News


Billings schools safety levy supporters encourage residents to vote

Screenshot 2024-05-06 at 11.33.19 PM.png
Posted at 11:47 PM, May 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-07 08:17:00-04

BILLINGS - It’s election day on Tuesday for school districts, including in Billings for mill levies in the elementary and high school districts.

There are “Yes for Safe Schools” signs in neighborhoods and that group is also out encouraging people to vote yes for the mill levies.

But also walking through some neighborhoods, signs are displayed against more taxes for those who oppose the levies.

The Yes for School Safety committee visited voters to talk about the $2.49 million elementary safety levy and the $2.52 million high school safety levy.

“You have a safe school in a neighborhood that improves the safety in that neighborhood, and then it improves the safety in the whole neighborhood," said Ione Young, co-chair of Yes for Safe Schools Billings. “It’s like the domino effect."

Young also served on the school district’s Parents Safety Advisory Committee, which looked at a consultant safety audit.

“They identified 58 deficiencies across the district,” Young said.

She said one of the deficiencies is that not every school has security cameras.

The levies would pay $359,000 annually for cameras in the elementary schools and $100,000 a year in the high schools.

The elementary school levy would also add 10 new employees including two mental health specialists and two new gang prevention specialists.

Both positions have never existed before.

At the high school level, the levy would fund 14 new positions including two mental health specialists, two gang prevention specialists, and three dropout specialists, which would also add a new position.

Those positions would all pay between $68,000 and $75,000 a year.

The elementary levy would add $27.93 annually for a $300,000 taxable value home.

The high school levy would add $34.44 every year for a $300,000 taxable value home.

This comes after a big increase in property taxes for many residents.

“Now is not a time to raise taxes, especially on those with fixed incomes,” said Jennifer Olsen, a Billings resident.

Olson says it's not just the additional amount that concerns her but it is the total taxes.

"It all adds up and that's why our property taxes are so high now,” Olsen said.

Olsen brings out that “No New Taxes” sign whenever there is a mill levy election, and she says a lot of property taxes already go to public education.

“They just need to look at their budget and figure out how to spend the money in a better way,” Olsen said about the Billings Public Schools.

“What is the risk of doing nothing?” Young asked. “That is a very high risk. I don’t want any community to go through that."