Since the state was kind enough to go through every K12 school in the state (back in 2008) and evaluate the condition of the buildings, there’s a fair bit of information to play with.
The general facts- as taken from the Facilities Condition Inventory.
Year Constructed (according to the state’s report)
Renewal Cost (estimate as of 2008)
Trego School (the school building proper, including the portable classrooms on the East end)
Bus Equipment Shed
Fuel Storage Unit
While it might seem a bit odd that the last two are exactly the same- since the complaint (paint peeling) was identical, the identical deficiency ratios and renewal costs make some sense.
Evidently, then, the problem was (and given the comparatively low costs of the other repairs, surely still is) the school itself, with a deficiency ratio of 30.1%. With the report estimating the total cost of repairs of the school building at $594,743, the school board will have to prioritize the necessary repairs (surely some of them have been addressed since 2008).
Many of the complaints in the report were reasonably straight forward; Windows should be double paned rather than single and window frames should have thermal breaks. Simple, though the renewal cost is quite spendy ($86,107 in total for windows). Another big ticket item is the two “portable” classrooms on the east side of the school. The report observed “Floor sagging or showing other similar such failure”, and estimated $88,058 to renew.
While the school board did pass a permissive levy which will amount to around $25,500, that’s not going to be sufficient for some of the costlier repairs the school is going to need. With the budget tight (enrollment has gone up, but the funding received from the state is based on a three year average), the school board is going to have to prioritize spending very carefully.
School taxation is not a simple subject. Part of the school taxes go to Helena, and are returned, not dollar for dollar, but apportioned according to school enrollment. Another part of taxes are assessed and go from the county revenues into the school accounts. Each portion has minimum and maximum levels. It isn’t hard math, but it is a challenge to keep things straight.
At Trego, the board needs to begin funding a building reserve fund. That means adding a permissive levy to raise $5,232.32 – about 2.71 mills. The state allows us a “District Major Maintenance Amount” with a maximum of $16,500 – and to get to that maximum, we have to levy $5,232.32 – 2.71 mills. The school was built over 50 years ago, and more maintenance planning and effort is becoming necessary. Folks give some simple explanations – “that will be about three dollars on a 100,000 assessment” which are simplified, easy to understand, and wrong.
Where to find information:
MT Revenue instructs us on how to calculate taxes from mills – not a particularly challenging math exercise, but worth using so you can understand how each additional levy affects your tax bill. As we look at the numbers, we’ll see that, in Trego, where nearly half the taxable value is “Centrally Assessed” we need a bit more understanding.
MT Office of Public Instruction provides spreadsheets of the budget files for each school district in the state. They’re in pdf format, but provide a lot of information – and are only slightly confusing.
If you contrast Trego, District 53, with Fortine, District 14, you will note that Fortine shows a market value of $119,644,515 while Trego shows $114,462,957. Still, the taxable value leans in the opposite direction: Fortine 1,5436,104 vs Trego at 1,931,429. The difference is in the category shown as “Centrally Assessed.” Taxable value of Centrally Assessed” property is about 3% of market value, while taxable value of “Real Property” is slightly over 1% of market value.
Since centrally assessed property in the Trego School District will primarily be railroad property, and since it represents a significant proportion of the total taxable value ($932,774/$1,931,429 = 48.3%) taxpayers in Trego School District can thank the railroad for taking a significant portion of the tax burden.