You might want to pull last Sunday’s A section from the recycling pile and hold on to it for a while. Profiles of the Butte school board candidates on page A7 will come in handy when the time comes to vote.

And that time is coming soon for those who vote by absentee ballot. Ballots will be mailed this coming Wednesday, April 14, to more than 3,500 registered voters in Butte-Silver Bow.

Butte school district officials asked The Standard to publish candidate information sooner rather than later this year because of the growing number of absentee voters. Newspapers have traditionally planned candidate profiles to come out just in advance of the actual Election Day, which isn’t until May 4. But with this new absentee voting trend, that timetable would be too late for those who like to get their completed  ballots back in the mail soon after they receive them.

For that same reason, the school board candidate forum is also early this year. It starts tonight at 7 p.m. in the West Elementary School cafeteria.

It will not be a debate, but it will give voters a chance to get acquainted with the candidates and hear their responses to questions posed by Butte Education Foundation members.

We’re fortunate this year to have five candidates running for the two open seats on the board. The two top vote-getters will serve three-year terms and help guide the school district through the difficult times ahead.

Just recently, the district learned that its health insurance premiums are set to rise dramatically as its carrier struggles to remain solvent in the face of rising health care costs. Much of that higher premium cost will no doubt have to be passed on to employees, as the district’s budgets are already tighter than tight, but the news only serves to underscore the importance of voting “Yes” on the school mill levy as well.

With state funding tied to enrollment and Butte school enrollment dropping, our schools need all the help they can get to keep providing the high quality of education our students deserve. The district is only asking local taxpayers to support a $25,000 mill levy for Butte High School this year. If passed, it would only raise property taxes about 85 cents per year on a $100,000 home. There will be no mill levy for the elementary school this time around.

Whether you will vote in a few days or a few weeks, please vote to support the school mill levy and also take time to read up on the school board candidates and consider attending tonight’s forum.

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