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[May 17, 2014]
Trustees debate how to fund technology [Daily Inter Lake, Kalispell, Mont. :: ]
(Daily Inter Lake, The (Kalispell, MT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 17--What next? That was the question posed to trustees by Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Darlene Schottle, who sought direction Tuesday after a high school technology levy was defeated by votes at a May 3 election.
The levy request was for $600,000 annually over 10 years.
"The question will be if we want to do any of those new things that we were going to do with the technology levy that did not pass, then we'll have to make some accommodations to make that happen," Schottle said.
Schottle said trustees need to consider whether to maintain existing technology and infrastructure (bandwidth, servers, connectivity, for example) at a minimum through budgeted general funds or identify money from other areas to put toward replacing and adding equipment to meet the technology demand as Glacier and Flathead high schools continue to increase class offerings in subjects such as science, technology, engineering and math.
A total of $400,000 in general-fund money is slated for technology expenses in a preliminary 2014-15 budget -- the same as the 2013-14 budget.
"Obviously we're not doing what we hoped to do -- increase bandwidth, increase connectivity, renew and rejuvenate current hardware within buildings," Schottle said. "The question before the board is, what now? You have a variety of options: Do nothing, hold it like it is and work next year like we did this year, talk about reducing costs, reducing expenditures in other ways to float additional general funds to technology, or use one time only funds, which are not sustainable." Other ideas she suggested were seek donations, start a Bring Your Own Device program, consider a student technology fee in specific classes or make another levy request.
Trustee Tom Clark said he wanted to go through the budget and look for areas where funding could be moved to cover technology expenses.
"My feeling is we are getting into the same position in technology as we are with our facilities," Clark said. "We are not funding them at an adequate level, so each year we're falling further and further behind. We aren't passing levies -- that's water under the bridge -- but we still have to find a way to put more money into technology to at least hold even. We can't afford to slip." Trustee Jeremy Reed added: "The public told us with this year's budget -- work with it -- tweak numbers with the funds that we have because that's what the public has told us by not supporting this tech levy." Whether the district would cap the number of devices coming into the district or remove devices is something trustee Jack Fallon said needs to be addressed.
Trustee Dave Schultz suggested that the district could cut hardware needs with a "Bring Your Own Device" policy, but noted that would probably require additional bandwidth and teacher training.
Trustee Joe Brenneman said making up for the failed technology levy means making cuts.
"If we're really going to talk about shifting money into technology -- we determined that was important enough to go to the taxpayers and ask for money -- if that's really our commitment -- it's going to mean giving up six, seven positions for example, or something else," Brenneman said.
Clark disagreed: "There's a lot of things we can touch in our budget without ever touching a position." Trustee Anne Marie Bailey asked both high school principals their thoughts. Glacier Principal Callie Langohr said her school has put together a master list of "must do's" in response to the levy failure. "If I have to say right now on the spot, I would say we would like to have what we currently have fixed and working," Langohr said.
Information Technology Director Rich Lawrence said he will talk to high school administrators about "what we can replace and what we can let go" and put a dollar amount to it.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at email@example.com.
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