Community

Mobile Bookstore Donated Books to Trego School

Trego Elementary school recently received a donation of books from Saint Rita’s Textual Apothecary. Trego School is continuing to expand its library- and its filing system.

The school has been working to expand the library and replace the card catalog with a more modern system, in conjunction with the school’s reading program. They are still hoping to acquire more books for students of all ages.

This week marks midterm of the fourth quarter- the last day of school (and end of the year picnic) will be on June 3rd.

Our thanks to the mobile bookstore for helping to foster a love of reading in our community.

Community

BackPack program begins at Trego School

What is a BackPack program? In essence, students are sent home with a “backpack” of food for the weekend. The premise is that while students receive meals at school (indeed, meals are free to all students at Trego School), they may need some supplementation on weekends and holidays. Thus, a BackPack program. Students are given a pack of food for the weekend to take home each Friday.

BackPack programs are typically supported by Food Banks and other sponsors. In Lincoln County, Libby and Troy schools both have BackPack Programs on the state map.

The program is starting out big, with a large bag of food going home with each student. North Valley Foodbank has provided Trego School with the initial bag, and with the “BackPacks” for several weeks.

Bags of food went home with students Friday
The typical Friday “BackPack” to take home is sized to feed a single child over the weekend
Thank you to North Valley Foodbank for helping to look after our kids.
Community

Trego School-More About the Building

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.

BuildingYear Constructed (according to the state’s report)Deficiency RatioRenewal Cost (estimate as of 2008)
Trego School (the school building proper, including the portable classrooms on the East end)196730.1%$594,743
Teacherage19675.1%$7,152
Bus Equipment Shed19601.8%$104
Fuel Storage Unit19601.8%$104
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.

Community

An Obit that Brought Good Memories

I knew I would one day read Freddie’s obit.  Few are granted long-term cancer survival.  Each of us went on with our own lives after high school – but I remember Jay Penney dragging me to a restaurant in Kalispell.  Jay was one of those half-generation older friends and coworkers who help you grow into a capable adult.  That day, because he was the type of man who shared friends, he had decided that Freddie and I needed to meet.  She knew our introduction was coming, and briefly kept a straight face – finally explaining to him that we had known each other from grade school as she poured coffee.  I’ve known two tremendously competent women who earned their livings as waitresses – and Freddie’s obit brought back good memories of Flo as well.

I don’t know how she convinced me that it was a good idea to head up Deep Creek to observe a beaver dam baptism.  I do  know that when our surreptitious observation failed, she was in the center seat of the pickup, encouraging more speed as I drove away.  My junior year, I think.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

We met at Trego grade school.  Christened Fredricka Louise Osler, she referred to her formal name as “Freddie and contraption.”  I’ve always felt that, had Bobby enlisted her help instead of grabbing the jump rope and running, we would have succeeded in capturing the bear cub and moving it into the kitchen.  Probably just as well we failed.

I recall that Freddie was walking along the highway with Alvin Rongholt when he was hit by a vehicle and died.  My memory of Alvin is of a kid who showed me his parody of “The Ballad of the Green Berets” that morning, who left only an out-of-focus photo in the school yearbook.  I guess he also left me an appreciation for parodies of Sergeant Sadler’s song, and a wish that people’s lives be remembered.

Obituaries that bring good memories are rare.  Thanks for the memories.

Community

Trego School Ice Fishing Trip

Last week, students and their families made their way to Murphy Lake for an Ice Fishing trip. It was a warm, pleasant day with chili dogs grilled beside the lake. A successful trip, since all but one student caught fish.

Where are the kids now? Spring break runs throughout the rest of this week. Classes will resume on the 15th and we can expect to see the buses back on their usual routes.

Adults planning similar trips should remember that Fishing Licenses expired February 28th- be sure to get a new one.

More information about school field trips can be found on the school calendar.

Photos by School Board Member Michelle Linden

Community

Trego School -Why have a building reserve fund?

As we wrote about earlier this year, the school board had decided to use a permissive levy to establish a building reserve fund. One of the requirements of the permissive levy is that “The projects must be listed and the priority for projects are listed on the Facility Condition Report under their deficiency categories. Those need addressed first.”

Not a fan of permissive levies? The school board election is coming up in May.

To find out what that means, we have to go to the Facility Condition Report. Back in 2008 the state of Montana arranged for every k12 building in the state to be inspected and its condition reported on. While these reports are theoretically public information, and publicly available, chasing down anything the government did over a decade ago is a bit of a challenge. A few government agencies and several emails later, I obtained copies of the original reports.

Looking at the 2008 report makes the need for a building reserve fund obvious. The school building proper has a deficiency ratio of 30.1%. The statewide report considered buildings with deficiency ratios greater than 20% to be in poor condition, and those greater than 50% to be in such bad shape that replacement might actually be preferable to repair.

The classrooms on the right side of the school entrance were originally portable classrooms and rest atop a “walkout” basement.

While some of the items in the report are minor- things that need paint or other simple repairs, not everything is that straight forward. The report describes the stair treads/risers as 100% deficient, stating that “Stair flight is settling or the under-structure physically failing”. On the same page, another description remarked that “Floor strength integrity of portable structures is questionable”. Trego School was constructed in response to the large flood of people associated with the tunnel, and included several portable classrooms, two of which remain in use today.

The roof system also included a 100% deficiency rating; “Condition observed: History of leaks; seams separating, punctured, or lifting at edges”. The estimated cost to repair, back in 2008? $29,365.

The school board will be meeting Wednesday, March 10th, at 4PM. The meeting can be attended long-distance. The Agenda (available in the post office) includes the building reserve. Those interested in attending can do so via the Gotomeeting App.

Want to see the school facilities condition inventory for yourself? I’d be happy to share what I received from the state- otherwise, Richard Knatterud (rknatterud@mt.gov) of the department of commerce was the person who provided me with copies.

Community

Taxes at Trego School

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.
  • State Information Technologies Services Division provides information that shows how each district is valued – for example, as you look at the tables below, you will notice that Market Value and Taxable value vary significantly. 

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.

Lincoln County

Property TypeMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$1,312,670$19,573
Manufactured Homes$19,167,600$227,521
Personal Property$14,516,888$205,961
Real Property$2,492,594,586$30,032,762
Centrally Assessed$215,533,424$7,005,541
Net & Gross ProceedsNA$0
Total$2,741,812,498$37,491,358
Newly TaxableNA$1,091,497
TIF IncrementNA$172,806

Fortine Elementary District 14

Property ValueMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$0$0
Manufactured Homes$754,480$8,520
Personal Property$159,180$2,388
Real Property$112,774,816$1,355,638
Centrally Assessed$5,956,039$179,558
Net & Gross ProceedsNA$0
Total$119,644,515$1,546,104
Newly TaxableNA$45,931
TIF IncrementNA$0

Eureka Elementary, District 13

Property TypeMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$8,349$180
Manufactured Homes$6,301,850$80,096
Personal Property$3,794,072$60,203
Real Property$890,148,736$11,267,169
Centrally Assessed $66,745,926$2,156,949
Net & Gross ProceedsNA$0
Total$966,990,584$13,564,597
Newly TaxableNA$374,513
TIF IncrementNA$172,806

Trego Elementary School District 53

Property ValueMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$0$0
Manufactured Homes$965,850$12,244
Personal Property$424,664$6,371
Real Property$83,469,474$980,040
Centrally Assessed$29,602,969$932,774
Net & Gross ProceedsNa$0
Total$114,462,957$1,931,429
Newly TaxableNA$159,108
TIF IncrementNA$0
Community

Trego School Enrollment Soars

Enrollment at Trego School continues to rise, in defiance of the historical trend. For the last few decades, school enrollment has been fairly steadily dropping. How low did enrollment actually get? The lowest official ANB (Average Number Belonging -i.e. the official state count of students) that I can find is seven, in the spring of the 2018-2019 school year. Enrollment actually continued to decline after that date, but didn’t make the official state count which is used to determine the district’s funding.

The most recent data, using the spring and fall ANB count provided by the state looks like this:

Time PeriodNumber of Students
Fall 201326
Spring 201428
Fall 201425
Spring 201527
Fall 201522
Spring 201622
Fall 201620
Spring 201720
Fall 201715
Spring 201813
Fall 201810
Spring 20197
Fall 201910
Spring 202014
Official ANB for Trego School, data from Montana Office of Public Instruction
In graph form the trend is somewhat clearer.

This data for this school year (2020-2021) isn’t available from the state yet, so the best way to find out about enrollment is to call the school and ask. Back in November, we reported the exciting news that enrollment was up to 23 students and we shared the following graph which incorporated that data.

Trego School enrollment as of November 2020

This January, enrollment reached 26.

Now, enrollment is up from January’s 26, to a total of 31 students. A 35% increase from November of 2020. This fall, Trego school optimistically began with three teachers. Now, with 31 students the average class size is slightly over 10. The school has been working to improve its enrollment, and has seen an amazing turn around. Even if we use the lowest official ANB number (which is decidedly higher than the lowest number the school reached), the school has more than quadrupled enrollment in the past two years.

Trego School enrollment, by year, as of late February, 2021. We’re going to have to consider changing our trend-line….

Well done, Trego School. Where will you go from here?

Archives, Community

Blast from the Past: School Board Discusses Nepotism

Sometimes, even old editions prove timely. Back about this time in 1988 Trego School board found itself discussing nepotism, specifically a school board member with a parent as a substitute cook.

We mentioned nepotism briefly last week, when we discussed the upcoming school board election. The state laws on nepotism can be found here.

Trego school board trustees discussed nepotism at their regular meeting February 10. The question of nepotism arose between school board trustee Sam Chaney, and substitute cook Donnajo Chaney, Sam’s mother. Sam Chaney received letters concerning nepotism from Bob Stockton, Office of Public Instruction and Cindy Middag, LC superintendent. The board took no action. The question of nepotism was again addressed concerning Sam Chaney and Trego election judge Goldie Calvert, his mother-in-law. The opinion of Jim Lear, attorney for the Legislative Council, Secretary of State’s office was that it is not legal for the Board of Trustees to appoint a relative to an election board because of the nepotism law. By doing so, the election could be challenged.

Trego Mountain Ear, February 22, 1988

Appointment of relative to office of trust or emolument unlawful — exceptions — publication of notice. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), it is unlawful for a person or member of any board, bureau, or commission or employee at the head of a department of this state or any political subdivision of this state to appoint to any position of trust or emolument any person related or connected by consanguinity within the fourth degree or by affinity within the second degree.

Montana Code Annotated 2-2-302

Is it legal for a board member to appoint a relative as a substitute? Well, looking at the current laws, substitute teacher is a bit complicated, but if the time requirements (no more than 30 consecutive days) are met, it’s possible. What about substitutes for other roles? If the person was hired for that role before the relative joined the board, the situation is an exception. Additionally, while the language is a bit cluttered, 2(b) suggests that if certain conditions are met, it could be done legally.

school district trustees if all the trustees, with the exception of any trustee who is related to the person being appointed and who must abstain from voting for the appointment, approve the appointment of a person related to a trustee;

Montana Code Annotated 2-2-302. 2(b)

There’s also an accompanying requirement for the position to be posted in the newspaper in advance of the appointment.

As a side note, there are also rules governing election judges. Provided that the election judge isn’t a relative of a trustee running for reelection, having the relative of a school board trustee as the election judge wouldn’t be a problem. Of course, having one of your relatives judge the election your running in? That’s still a problem. Additionally, since election judges are paid, appointing your relatives is still bad form, even if it is an exception in Montana Code Annotated 2-2-302.

But read the whole issue:

Community

Trego School Trustees Positions

Trego School (School District 53) has scheduled the regular school election for Tuesday, May 4, 2021.  Three trustee positions are up for election – a 1 year term, a 2 year term and a 3 year term.  It’s been a long time since a school election was held – for years, a single candidate for each board position has resulted in election by acclamation. Democracy does seem to work better when people actually run for office and elections actually occur. Folks interested in applying should contact the school clerk (email).

Who can run? According to the school election handbook, published by Montana’s Office of Public Instruction (OPI):

Any person qualified to vote in a district is eligible for the office of trustee. However, there are
restrictions on who may hold office. A trustee may not be employed in any capacity by the
trustee’s own school district (with the exception of officiating athletic competitions under the
auspices of the Montana Officials Association). The trustee candidate may be related to a
school or county employee

No person convicted of a felony is eligible to hold office until final discharge from state supervision.

-School Election handbook

Trustee candidates may be related to a school employee, are there any special considerations if they are? Definitely! State nepotism laws absolutely apply to school boards, this means that a relative of a school employee that is also a board member will need to be well informed in order to avoid violating state law. Especially significant, since the penalty is potentially as hefty as $1000 fine and 6 months jail time.

Can board members be related to one another? Sure, but like the previous case, some research is going to be necessary. In this case, the law to be careful of is the open meeting law. A meeting occurs whenever a quorum is present, and while a Quorum is three members of a five member board, a four member board has a quorum of two. While Trego School has a five member board, any one person stepping down could create a situation in which a husband and wife (or parent and child) couldn’t talk to one another without having an illegal meeting. So, is it possible to have relatives on the school board? Definitely. A good idea? Perhaps not.

Why aren’t the terms all the same length? School board terms are staggered, so that only part of the board is up for election at any given time. If someone steps down from the board, midyear, the board appoints a replacement who serves until the next election. At that point, the person elected serves the rest of the term.

Why haven’t there been elections recently? If there aren’t more candidates running than vacancies, the district isn’t required to have an election, instead, each candidate is appointed, by “acclamation”, since they’ve effectively ran unopposed for the position.

What does being on a school board entail? Monthly meetings, at minimum. Boards can also hold special meetings, as needed, and board members can attend trainings.