Written by John Plestina
How much could be appropriated from the new fiscal year budget for needed school building repairs remained in limbo following a Wolf Point School District finance committee meeting Tuesday, July 28.
School district trustees are expected to adopt the full budget Monday, Aug. 10, but the district must finalize the budget and superintendent Gary Scott is waiting to receive taxable values from the Montana Department of Revenue, which are market values of individual pieces of property times the tax rate for the property. Taxable value multiplied by the number of mills levied by the various taxing entities — school district, county, city, etc. — determine property tax liability.
If or how much taxes could increase for schools remains a question because it will not be known where the mill levy is going until Monday, Aug. 10. The school district is waiting for taxable values from the Montana Department of Revenue.
The Department of Revenue conducted new tax evaluations across the state during fall 2014, resulting in Roosevelt County real estate taxes increasing substantially, but more so in Cul-
bertson and Bainville, which are Bakken Oilfield-impacted. In Wolf Point, taxes doubled for some homeowners, increased only slightly for others and remained static for some.
“You’ve got so much just to get the buildings in shape, more than most districts,” Scott told the finance committee.
He cited needed replacement of rotting wood and repairs of damaged plaster and restrooms.
The districts facilities committee prioritized needed repairs to all school buildings Tuesday, July 21, that included the high school gym floor and bleachers, high school parking lot repaving and sidewalk drainage, Northside School fifth and sixth grade restrooms, repair of bricks at the high school, roof leaks at Northside School, repair or replacement of boilers and air handlers, red moss on the roof of Southside School, a need for subsidized teacher housing to attract and retain teachers, and repairs to doors, entries and floors.
Scott will obtain quotes for costs of all proposed projects and determine how much the district could spend on facilities during the coming year.
“That gym has got to be fixed,” Scott said.
“I want to approach groups,” he said of a planned effort to obtain at least some of the funding from donations.
Voters rejected a levy in May 2014 that would have funded replacement of the gym floor and repaving the parking lot.
The current high school was built during the late 1960s to replace the original building that was destroyed by fire.
School District business manager Cheri` Nygard said the Wolf Point Foundation existed in the past as an entity for fundraising and asked if it could again.
Scott said the WPSD has $282,000 in the building reserve fund, which has remained in place several years to fund unforeseen major expenses. Nygard used a boiler going out as an example.
The district levied 122.17 mills for all elementary school funds and 95.18 for the junior high/high school last year.
A mill is one-tenth of a penny.
Trustees determine the budget and the amount to be levied, the Roosevelt County Commissioners levy funds after the final budget is approved.
The district receives state funding for each student based on the number of pupils enrolled during two counts during the school year.
Written by John Plestina
New district superintendent Gary Scott told the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture board of directors Tuesday, Aug. 4, that the need is acute for renovations to Wolf Point schools, including replacement of the high school gym floor.
Scott has sought estimates for several proposed projects and must determine soon how much to recommend that district trustees appropriate for repairs to facilities in the next fiscal year budget. Trustees are expected to adopt the full budget Monday, Aug. 10.
The floor in the 46-year-old high school gym needs to be replaced and bleachers must be replaced or repaired.
“Everything will be fine this year and we will have to replace it for next year,” Scott said.
He said the bleachers at the football field also need repairs.
Chamber director Duane Kurokawa asked Scott if he has targeted the gym floor for replacement before the basketball season.
Scott responded that he wants to see it done before the next school year and that work could begin after the basketball season ends.
During a recent WPSD Finance Committee meeting, Scott cited needed replacement of rotting wood, a leaking roof, repairs of damaged plaster and
restrooms in several buildings.
“We’re spending all our time on repairs,” he said. “We are still two teachers short and we are down a custodian.”
Arlyss Long, also a chamber director, told Scott he seems to have a plan and an attitude to get the school repairs completed.
“I just want the quality of education where it should be,” Scott said.
Written by John Plestina
The president of Montana’s Highway 2 Association remains pessimistic of the Senate’s six-year highway bill that passed on the heals of a three-month fiscal band-aid approved before the 435 House members left for a six-week recess, leaving Congress unable to vote on the Senate bill until after Sept. 8.
The Senate voted 91-4 to pass the House’s three-month extension in order to avoid a transportation construction shutdown. It only ensures that funding is not halted for current infrastructure projects.
After the House passed the short-term fix Wednesday, July 29, Congress adjourned for the six-week recess without taking up the Senate’s long-term bill.
The Senate bill, a bipartisan six-year plan for highway, bridge and transit construction, passed 65-34 Thursday, July 30. If passed by the House and President Barack Obama signs it into law, the measure would provide about $47 billion in additional highway funding for the first three years. It authorizes infrastructure projects for six years, leaving proposed projects unfunded from 2018 to 2021.
The Senate bill would not result in a tax increase at the gas pumps. Funding would come from a variety of means, including the sale of oil from the government-owned Strategic Petroleum Reserve, reducing dividends paid by the Federal Reserve to member banks and extending various user fees and improving tax compliance.
The plan is the first long-term highway bill approved in the Senate since 2005. The short-term extension is the 34th that Congress has passed since 2009.
“The Senate did this because they say it will give them a head start when Congress reconvenes on Sept 8. Fact of matter, it will not be approved by the House, therefore more wrangling and time wasted,” Highway 2 Association President Bob Sivertsen of Havre told The Herald-News. “The people need to demand a clean highway bill.”
He said both funding proposals [House and Senate] are bad ideas and that the public needs to pressure Congress to step away from the proposals.
“The House passing a three-month extension is nothing more than kicking the can down the road,” Sivertsen said. “The House like the Senate doesn’t have a plan that will fly.”
He added that politicians in Washington are not being honest and forthright.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., released the following prepared statement: “The Senate just passed a six-year Highway Bill. That is good news for Montana ― a state that has 75,000 miles of road. We need to address our infrastructure challenges in a state like Montana where we have $60 billion worth of goods that move over those highways. It is unfortunate that the House did not stick around to give our Department of Transportation, our contractors and the people of Montana the certainty they need to know that we’re going to have a good highway system that supports our economy, not only this year, but well into the future,”
Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., voted in favor of the temporary extension. He called on the leadership in the House and Senate to craft a long-term plan before the senate passed the six-year plan.
“The Highway Bill is one of those ‘must-do’ bills, and I believe infrastructure is a fundamental role of government. Infrastructure is an investment, not simply an expense, that will prepare Montana for the future,” Zinke said in a prepared statement. “A long-term highway bill that is paid for with the right priorities is certainly at the top of my list, but right now Congress has no clear path forward. I am pleased that our veterans and highways remain a priority, but I look forward to both chambers coming together on a fiscally responsible way to build our roads and bridges.”
“Today the Senate took an important step in moving forward a bipartisan, multi-year bill to address our nation’s infrastructure needs. Montanans deserve a long-term solution that provides needed certainty, improves our infrastructure country, and most importantly, helps create jobs,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said in a statement.
Sivertsen called for a hike in the gas/fuel tax. He said it is the only legitimate way to fund the Highway Trust.
“It’s the fairest tax, because it’s a user tax, if ya don’t drive, ya don’t pay,” he said.
“I have been an advocate for raising the gas/fuel tax for sometime now. Former Sen. Max Baucus told me some years ago, ‘As unpopular as it is, we need to raise the gas/fuel tax,’” Sivertsen said.
He said he is pleased that some representatives in Congress are advocating for the increased tax.
Sivertsen submitted a proposal to Congress that would fund the highway trust and address other related issues.
Sivertsen called a funding proposal by presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., “a devious political scheme. Using repatriation to collect money from corporations doing business overseas is a bogus scheme, at best.”
Written by Herald-News
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., announced Friday, July 31, that six Montana airports will receive more than $2.8 million dollars from the Federal Aviation Administration for critical construction and maintenance needs. Wolf Point’s airport is not included.
Grants were awarded to: Circle Town County Airport, $365,000 to construct a 3,600-square-foot hangar building; Sidney-Richland Municipal Airport, $1,355,400 to construct a new taxiway and two hangars to increase airport efficiency and provide access to a new hangar development area; Dawson Community Airport in Glendive, $78,300 to install a runway vertical visual guidance system to improve safety and visibility for aircraft; Woltermann Memorial Airport in Columbus, $150,000; Lewistown Municipal Airport, $428,179; and Yellowstone Airport at West Yellowstone, $450,000.
“Montana’s community airports provide critical transportation services to Montana’s rural communities,” Daines said. “These grants will ensure that Montana’s smaller airports are able to meet rising ridership demands, ensure safe and reliable service for their passengers, and meet the long-term economic needs of the communities they serve.”
Written by Herald-News
With the first day of school for Wolf Point students in just two and a half weeks, here are a few things parents and students should know.
The first day of school for all Wolf Point schools will be Monday, Aug. 24.
Physicals for students in grades six through 12 will be given in the Wolf Point High School gym foyer Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 5 and 6.
Teachers will be attending professional development Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 10 and 11, at 8 a.m., at Fort Peck Community College.
High school student schedules will be finalized Wednesday, Aug. 12.
The first day of practice for all high school fall sports teams will be Friday, Aug. 14.
The junior high back to school social for junior high students will be Wednesday, Aug. 19, from 2 to 4 p.m., with a meet and greet for teachers from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
After students return to school, there will be a pep band rehearsal Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m.
The Wolves’ first football game will be Friday, Aug. 28, at Forsythe. There will not be a zero week game this year.
Lady Wolves volleyball will open the season at Malta, Saturday, Aug. 29.
WPHS cross country will start the season at the Poplar Meet, Saturday, Aug. 29.