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Three Forks Schools hoping to retain teachers with proposed general fund mill levy

“If this levy doesn’t pass, the ultimate impact will mean larger class sizes and less individualized learning,” said Three Forks Schools Superintendent Rhonda Uthlaut.
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Posted at 8:28 AM, Mar 28, 2024

THREE FORKS — Teachers in Three Forks say the school is the heartbeat of the community. A close-knit school district with Pre-K through 12th grade all under one roof. However, a limited budget and high cost of living are driving some of these teachers out the door.

“I would like us to not be stressing every year about whether or not we can pass a levy for teacher salaries or to pay the electric bill,” said Sandra Cutler.

Sandra Cutler has been teaching at Three Forks Schools for 21 years now. In that time she’s seen many changes.

The most recent was a $25 million renovation which is now complete, giving them an additional 38,000 square feet. Comfortable space for teachers to teach, and students to learn.

“We’re able to diversify what we’re able to give our students for a district this size,” said Cutler. “We offer dual credit, clubs, and classes.”

But now, some of these opportunities are at risk.

“If this levy doesn’t pass, the ultimate impact will mean larger class sizes and less individualized learning,” said Three Forks Schools Superintendent Rhonda Uthlaut.

According to Uthlaut, possible budget cuts could also affect support staff, in custodians.

Even student organizations and sports teams would be affected.

To prevent this, Uthlaut says the school has been trying to get a general fund levy passed.

The proposed levy would raise $680,388 for property taxpayers—that comes to $46.31 a year per $100,000 assessed value. So if your house is assessed at 300,000, you’d pay an additional $138.93 a year.

The money would be used to ease the projected budget shortfall due to the rising cost of utilities and general operations of the school. The levy will even help raise teachers’ pay, which currently starts at $36,610 a year.

“I’m sad to say that as of yesterday, we’ve had our sixth resignation and several of those people are leaving education; they just can’t make enough to live,” said Uthlaut.

Cutler says if they can’t get the levy passed and increase teacher pay, the school will continue struggling to recruit and retain teachers.

“It weighs on teachers when we’re wondering each year, ‘Can we get this passed?’. I often I think about all the time we could spend hoping and planning for the future. That would be a dream for me.”

Three Forks voters will get the opportunity to vote on the school’s General Fund Mill Levy on May 7.