By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The budget proposals presented to the Havre school board on Thursday night contained cuts in a number of areas, though district administrators maintain that the cuts will not affect educational programs.
Most of the reductions were to supply and staff travel budgets. The district also plans to eliminate 1 positions.
Superintendent Kirk Miller said today the effects of cutting the supply budget will be noticeable.
"I think it's going to be felt districtwide," he said. "It's going to tighten the belt to a notch that's uncomfortable. When you're reducing supply budgets that are already pretty tight by 10 percent, that does have an impact."
The school board heard preliminary budget proposals for fiscal year 2005 from both the elementary and high school districts, but did not take action on either proposal. District officials said they expect the preliminary budget to be approved during the board's June 8 meeting.
The final budget will be set in August.
Unlike previous years, the proposals for next year contained no special requests and no alternative budget plans. Special requests are wish-list items teachers and school administrators often make in addition to the must-have items included in their budgets. Alternative proposals are usually presented to give school board members flexibility in setting budgets.
District clerk Ric Floren told the school board that the proposals for next year are part of a three-year plan. Floren said the district administration worked with teachers and school administrators to reduce costs in anticipation of lean years expected to follow.
The district proposes to spend $10.17 million, about $350,000 more than last year. The budget was bolstered by a $165,000 tax hike approved by voters in May and about $210,000 in increased funding from state and federal sources.
The extra money is eclipsed by the $375,000 increase to teachers' salaries, higher insurance costs and an anticipated $60,000 utility bill increase next year. Floren said the budget cuts are necessary to make up the difference.
Future budgets are expected to be strained even more, Floren said, as the district calculates that school enrollment will decline by about 90 students during the next three years, resulting in $500,000 less from funding sources.
In preparation for that, the budgets proposals for 2005 contain cuts in a number of areas. The largest is a 10 percent slash in supply expenditures for nearly every department within the district.
"Quite frankly, we're down to no fat whatsoever in terms of supplies," Floren told the school board.
The proposed budget also includes eliminating national travel and cutting five staff positions.
Although a total of five staff positions have been removed from the general und budget, that does not mean five people will lose their jobs, Floren said. Several of those positions will be funded through alternative means, though the district is planning to discontinue one full-time and one part-time position, he said. Those may include not replacing employees who retire, he added.
The budget also includes $92,000 in money set aside to purchase items that will be used in 2005-06.
"We have a three-year plan in place, and '04-05 is the first year for the implementation of that plan," Miller said this morning. "We're concerned about the decline in enrollment, and we need to make sure that we planned appropriately to prepare for that.
"We need to make sure that we don't relinquish our goals, and one of our goals this year was to make sure that we could retain and recruit in our market area, and this budget accomplishes that. It also allows us to set our direction for the next three years by setting aside funds to purchase specific needs for the '05-06 year."
The budget cuts should not affect the district's education plan, Miller said.
"The school administrators have done the very best they can to ensure that it will not have a significant impact on the educational programs being offered," he said.
Some of the items in the proposed elementary district budget are:
An overall budget of $6 million.
Cutting the middle school's athletic supplies budget from $17,300 to $15,500.
Reducing to one the number of additional middle school classrooms that will be outfitted with multimedia systems next year. The middle school science department had requested three such classrooms be modified - at a price tag of $4,500 apiece.
Cutting the elementary district's administrative budget by $7,585 to a total of $23,619 - a 24 percent reduction. About $5,000 of that is money previously allocated for travel expenses.
No cuts for the $160,000 in budget items considered to be fixed costs. Those items include things like membership dues, postage meters, insurance premiums and election costs. The budget also sets aside $18,000 for emergency expenses, though Floren warned that the fund could be wiped out by something like a boiler replacement, which would cost about $40,000.
Slashing the instruction budget for the three elementary schools by $12,000, divided equally among the schools.
Saving about $15,000 in supervisory costs by using federal Title I dollars to pay the wages for some paraprofessionals.
Allocating $426,000 for the operational expenses for the elementary district, including $132,000 for electricity, $94,000 for heat and $45,000 for water and sewage.
Eliminating two summer maintenance positions.
Earmarking $375,000 for the elementary district's special education department. About 95 percent of that is for personnel costs, though the proposal includes cutting the supply budget by 10 percent.
The proposed budget for the high school district includes:
Overall spending of $4.1 million.
Cutting $7,200 in the athletic department that had been earmarked for new uniforms and weight room upgrades.
Increasing several items in the activities budget, including wages for bus drivers and travel money for the band and choir.
Slashing funding for the high school science and health departments by about $17,000. Administrators said the impact will be minimal because many of the departments' budget requests were for new computers, and the school has made arrangements to acquire some from the state.
Allocating $107,000 for fixed costs. Those includes $19,000 in emergency money, but $8,200 of that has already been used to finance a last-minute labor contract provision that boosted extracurricular salaries by 4 percent.
Cutting the high school's instruction budget by nearly $10,000 to $168,000. The cuts came in the administrative travel budget, library periodical subscriptions, and other areas.
Earmarking $260,000 for the high school district's building operation budget. The proposal includes $73,000 for heating bills, $93,000 for electricity, and $150 for gopher extermination.