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No challengers but new levies in May election

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The Missoula County Public Schools election this year is competition-free, with four people running for four positions. However, voters will also decide on three tax levies in the May 7 election.

Board incumbent Rosemary Harrison is running for a seat representing both the elementary and secondary districts. Harrison, who has been on the board for six years, is a speech pathologist in the Hellgate Elementary School District. She currently serves on the board of the Montana School Boards Association.

Running for the other available elementary and secondary districts seat is Naomi DeMarinis. A Missoula small business owner, DeMarinis is president of the board of directors of the low-income advocacy group WEEL (Working for Equality and Economic Liberation), a multi-cultural coordinator at the YWCA, and chair-elect of the Missoula Family Violence Council. DeMarinis says her focus on the school board will be on reducing class sizes and making sure that schools are kept accessible in neighborhoods with a strong sense of community.

Debbie Dupree of Seeley Lake is running for the high school district seat that represents Seeley Lake, Swan Valley, Clinton, Potomac and Sunset. Dupree, who works at a Napa store, says her priority will be getting better representation for her area, which often seems far removed from the rest of the district.

“I just think that we need to have somebody that goes to town and tries to get the same stuff for our kids as the kids get in town,” Dupree says.

The final candidate is Diane Beck, who is running for the high school district seat that represents the Hellgate area. Beck is a prominent real estate agent and community activist who has been active in the Missoula County Association of Realtors, the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Mullan Road Coalition, among other groups. She is running for the seat vacated by Joyce Easter in March. The position will be for one year and then another election will be held.

The three levies on the ballot would allow the district to bring in new technology and to keep all of its existing programs operational, school officials say. The elementary and secondary flex fund levies would have an impact of just a couple of dollars per household, according to MCPS spokeswoman Lesli Brassfield. The technology levy would be more substantial, though, costing homeowners about $16 for houses valued over $200,000. Flex fund taxes are a new tool passed by the Legislature last year which allow local school districts to propose property tax raises that go directly into the schools’ general funds.

“We’re looking at what our taxpayers can support, like any other public entity out there,” Brassfield says. “We want to be as gentle as we can with them.”

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