BILLINGS – Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham broke down the details of the proposed operational high school levy at Monday night’s board meeting.
Billings voters haven’t passed a high school mill levy in 12 years.
“It truly is hindering us,” Upham said.
According to sd2milllevy.org, the $971,467 levy would allow the district to purchase new textbooks and instructional materials for Billings high schools. It would also allow funds to hire four additional career counselors to help students develop career pathways.
At the meeting, Upham showed a promotional video in support of the levy. Upham said the video was meant to educate the community and taxpayers about the need for the levy. It featured high school students discussing their lack of classroom materials.
“It’s no secret that high school textbooks are severely outdated,” a Billings Skyview High Schol senior identified as Kaylee said in the video. “My history textbook sophomore year. First off, we didn’t have enough to take home which put a damper on the stuff we could do. We couldn’t do outside homework because we can’t take a book home.”
With this levy, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an extra $10.04 per year in property tax. The election is May 7.
Upham says the levy is much needed across the three Billings high schools. He says the district has not been able to offer some advanced classes due to the lack of facilities and instructional material.
Upham is committed to transparency when discussing the levy.
“We can’t, as an entire community, hope to pass levies or be afraid to introduce them for fear they fail,” Upham said. “It’s on us as an entity to communicate with our community so that they understand the importance of what we’re doing. The relevance, the accountability, and the transportation when they give us those funds. We need to do a better job.”
Upham believes Billings students need materials that are comparable to other districts in order to compete in the job market after graduation.
“What our community needs to understand is that our children and our students have to compete,” Upham said. “In order to compete we need to create the best environment we can for them so that they have an edge in this. By passing this it gets us on the right track.”
Tuesday, students from all Billings high schools will rally on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn at 4 p.m. in support of the levy.
To learn more about the proposed levy head to sd2milllevy.org.
Reporting by Mitch Lagge for MTN News