Missoula voters on Tuesday approved four school levies totaling nearly $7 million for its largest school district, and elected a new trustee as well.

Meanwhile, most of Missoula County's outlying school districts failed in their levy requests.

The Missoula County Public Schools district requests were the largest of the levies on the mail-in ballot, which included separate funding requests for Frenchtown, Swan Valley, Potomac, Hellgate Elementary and other smaller school districts in the county.

Voters in Frenchtown, Lolo, Potomac and Swan Valley turned down requests for levies to supplement their general fund accounts.

Hellgate Elementary voters passed their district's request, 1,473-1,414.

Final unofficial results showed 22,997 ballots cast for a turnout of 35.63 percent.

Meanwhile, retired Sentinel High School teacher Larry Foust took a seat on the MCPS school board, ousting incumbent Adam Duerk as the board's newest trustee. Foust had 5,119 votes to 4,275 for Duerk.

"I'll do an honest job, based on my experience from the bottom," said the former world history teacher, who will sit aside trustee Shelly Wills. Wills retained her seat on the board in the three-person race for two open seats, with 6,344 votes.

MCPS asked voters for millions of dollars as the country continues to feel the effects of a recession, and the passage of all four levies shows how committed Missoula County is to education, said MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle.

"It's a credit to the community and it personifies their belief in the school system," he said. "They understand it's an investment and not an expense. And we will not let them down."

MCPS voters approved a $435,000 elementary district general fund levy request by 7,414-5,688. The high school levy request was approved 10,674-10,337.

The general fund requests will go to stave off layoffs among 90 nontenured teachers in the district, while the $5.6 million for buildings will fund repairs and maintenance for the elementary buildings over the next five years, and the high schools over the next seven.

MCPS and other districts sought the levies largely because they were wary of how much the state Legislature would fund public schools for the next two years. Lawmakers passed a bill near the end of the 2011 session that would increase state spending on K-12 education by 1 percent over the next year, and 2.6 percent the following year.

That bill is part of a larger budget bill yet to be signed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Given the end of federal "stimulus" money, that still amounts to a net decrease in funding.

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com.


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