Tonight, the Bozeman School Board will vote on whether to raise local property taxes to approve the $72 million in spending budgeted for this school year in Bozeman. Approving $72 million in spending would be up 3.4% from last year.
Enrollment for the Bozeman School District is expected to increase by 170 students, or 2.7 percent. The expected total will be 6,464 students—a new record for Bozeman school enrollment numbers. The new budget would add 10 new elementary teachers and 1 high school teacher to better address the growing student population. The school board will also increase their reserves to better tackle the proposed Sacajawea Middle School expansion and second High School. The district’s upgrade of Hawthorne Elementary, will use a TIF, and not raise taxes on those in the district.
In order to pay for the spending increases, 31 million will need to be raised from taxpayers. The process has been complicated because of the Department of Revenue’s property tax reappraisal. Property values only dropped by 3% from when the recession began in 2008—far better than the expected 11% drop that some predicted—but balancing the budget has been more difficult with shifting property values. If the budget is approved, each property owner in the Elementary district will see their taxes raise by 7.45 mills and those in the High School district will see their taxes raise by 3.79 mills.
A tax increase approved by voters as well as the Montana’s Legislature’s increased state spending on schools have also contributed to the budget. The total elementary budget would go up to $45.4 million and the high school budget would go up $26.8 million. The district has been awarded a plethora of awards in the last year, whether financial, academic, student based, or from an outside ranking system.