Letters published April 13, 2018

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It’s not a bond election ... and it IS necessary

Mark Agather’s recent letter opposing the upcoming “school bond” election contains a number of incorrect statements, which I hope to correct with this letter.

First, this is not a school bond election, but rather a general levy. The difference is important, as “bond dollars” can only be spent on capital improvements, while “levy dollars” are used to cover shortfalls in the operating budget, which have arisen due to a significant cut in state funding, increased health-care plan costs, and additional operating expenses associated with the opening of Rankin Elementary in the fall.

Second, Mr. Agather wrongly claims that the levy vote has been purposely scheduled on an “odd date” that does not align “with usual voting dates in June or November” with the intent being to “suppress debate and minimize voter participation.” In fact, the date for this election is MANDATED by state law. Section 20-20-105 of the Montana Code Annotated provides for a “regular school election day” that must be “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May,” and further provides that requests for additional funding must be included on that day. The “sinister” motives which Mr. Agather ascribes to the timing of this levy vote are complete fabrications. The “snowbirds” which Mr. Agather claims “are almost certain of being fenced out of the process” have the same rights as all other voters to submit an absentee ballot, which is extremely simple and utilized by many year-round residents, too.

Finally, Mr. Agather asserts that “no one scrutinizes the expenses of our schools to determine if more taxes are actually necessary or if existing revenues are being used efficiently.” This will probably come as a surprise to the 27 members of the review team that spent many hours scrutinizing more than 6,000 budget line-items and whittled a combined total of over $700,000 from this year’s elementary and high school budgets, and more than $800,000 from next year’s budgets, before asking for additional tax dollars. It will also come as a surprise to the school board trustees whose job includes ensuring accountability, and who approved this levy request by a 4-1 margin (with the one “no” vote feeling the levy request was too small). (Source: Daily Inter Lake, “Kalispell Voters to Consider $1M Levy,” Feb. 28, 2018)

Underlying this budget shortfall is good news: our population and local economy are growing, and enrollment in our public schools has been steadily increasing for most of the last decade. That growth would not be happening — and will not continue — without well-funded local schools. I urge all voters to educate themselves about this important issue and make a well-informed decision rather than one based on misinformation. —Roy Antley, Kalispell

Vote yes on levy

Our kids are our priority. Without the upcoming levy being passed, our kids will lose on educational opportunities. Significant cuts will have to be made in our school system.

The school system is running on federal and state funds. These funds do not cover all areas of our children’s education. Levies fill in those gaps.

These are not bonds for building. This is a levy for running our school district. On a home valued at $300,000, you will pay about $6.30 a month. On a $100,000 home you will pay about $2.10 a month.

Our school district is very responsible with the monies given to run our schools. Our children deserve the best education to succeed.

I will be voting Yes on this levy. —Craig Smith, Kalispell

Not all outdoor cats are strays

WAIT! — before you trap or capture my cat! My cats are itching to get outdoors! Please be careful not to assume that a cat in your yard is a stray or feral cat and take it to a shelter.

Most cats are impossible to keep in a specific yard, and they love to explore. A cat may be passing through your yard, but will definitely head home for meal time and a warm bed before the day is over. So don’t assume it is a stray — and don’t feed it or keep food out for cats, because that will only entice them to stay. All cats know their home and where they get fed, and will return to do so.

Some cats are new to the neighborhood, even if it looks unfamiliar to you, it may not be a stray. Only if a cat stays in your yard for several days or longer should you determine it to be a stray and rescue it. First, do the neighborly thing, and check around to see if it does have a home nearby before you take it to an animal shelter. Cats need space and do wander. Taking a neighborhood pet to the shelter may be an unnecessary traumatic experience for the cat and the owner. Don’t feed and wait several days before trying to help a “stray” cat that may not be a stray at all. Also, if you are missing a cat, please check all the local shelters and rescues to find your cat and bring it back home. —Carmen O’Brien, Lakeside

Welzel: Breath of fresh air in HD7

A breath of fresh air, Bob Welzel, is running for House District 7. A retired lieutenant colonel Marine pilot, he has a proven record of leadership, courage, service, loyalty, and patriotism. Politically active, bold, principled and intelligent.

I witnessed him testify against Medicaid expansion and for the sanctity of human life. A devout man of God, he delivered the opening prayer at the 2017 Personhood rally in Helena.

He stands in dramatic contrast to his opponent, Frank Garner, who consistently, in unprincipled fashion, voted opposite of his campaign promises. Nicknamed Gas Tax Garner for sponsoring the 2017 bill that raised the gas tax, he also voted for Medicaid rxpansion in 2015. For his voting record in the 2017 legislative session, Garner got a D score on the Americans for Prosperity scorecard. In the 2015 and 2017 legislative sessions, Garner got an F score on Legistats, received for voting more often for Democrat partisan bills than Republican partisan bills. The website states: “F ratings indicate … basically a Republican that the Democrats can consistently count on to swing partisan votes.” Pro-life liberty-minded Democrats who value individuals with uncompromising character would be favorably impressed engaging Bob Welzel in conversation. For Republicans who believe in the small government Montana Republican Platform, the choice is clear: Bob Welzel for House District 7. —Annie Bukacek, Bigfork

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