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The Missoula County Public Schools K-8 levy passed easily Tuesday night, and incumbent board member Shelly Wills retained her seat with every ballot counted late Tuesday.

Elsewhere, levies in Lolo, Target Range and Seeley Lake were shot down, while those in Desmet and Swan Valley passed.

With a tally of 7,820 to 4,732, more than 62 percent of voters in Missoula's K-8 district approved the $195,962 levy, which will fund educational programs in art, music and athletics, as well as provide money for counselors and para-educators. The money will also be used at the district's discretion for books, utilities and maintenance.

Wills, who was appointed to the school board in August 2009, defeated challenger Ethan Heverly, who ran on the issues of reducing class size and decreasing the dropout rate. With unofficial votes tallied, she won 6,550 to 3,548, or nearly 64 percent of the vote.

"I am overwhelmed and humbled by the support of voters," said Wills, a mother of two and Flathead High School graduate.

Wills, a self-employed property manager, has a bachelor of science degree from Montana State University.

"I believe we have an oustanding administration, and skilled and educated administrators," she added.

Scott Bixler, Toni Rehbein and Joe Toth retained their uncontested seats.

Turnout was heavy in the monthlong mail-in election. More than 1,000 votes arrived from collection spots after 8 p.m. Tuesday, the deadline. After all arrived, 18,069 were counted. It was, said election officials, a healthy turnout at nearly 37 percent. That's more than double the turnout of the last year's school election.

The passage of the MCPS levy means homeowners in the K-8 district will be assessed $3.36 in new taxes for every $100,000 of assessed home value starting next year.

Fortunes were not so good elsewhere. Voters in the Target Range district handily shot down both the general fund and technology levies - 751-575 and 680-642, respectively. Lolo voters turned away both the general fund and building reserve levies by 680-534 and 743-469, respectively.

The Seeley Lake Elementary levy also lost by a close 367-333.

But the outlying districts did see some success. The Swan Valley general fund levy passed 123-112, while the Desmet levy sailed by 164-112.

Elsewhere in the region, results were mixed. Whitefish's elementary levy passed 907-545, as did the building reserve levy in St. Regis (136-78) and Paradise's mill levy (43-26).

However, Hamilton's $1 million building reserve levy was defeated 1,304 to 1,014, as was a $235,000 technology levy, 1,308 to 1,006.

Kila's building fund levy was defeated 174-79.

At under $200,000, the MCPS levy is relatively modest, compared to others around the state, which came with multimillion-dollar price tags. MCPS has said it will be asking for more substantial levies in the next two years.

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at


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