Havre Daily News
By all accounts, the Havre school board will have a much easier task developing the 2006-2007 budget than it has had in years. An infusion of funding from the Legislature and the support of local voters will allow Havre Public Schools to maintain the level of services it offered to students this year and restore funding in some areas that had been cut.
At a meeting Tuesday night, school officials presented budget proposals to the board. They would increase the high school budget from $4.1 million to $4.27 million, and the elementary budget, including the middle school, from $6.07 million to $6.35 million.
Superintendent Kirk Miller said this was the first time in his nine years on the job the school board didn't have to debate significant funding sacrifices.
It was nice to have a little breathing room, district officials said.
"There was enough revenue in the state support and the local levy," Miller said. "The need to make extensive cuts wasn't necessary. I want to extend a word of thanks to the community members who supported our levies. We will use their tax money in the most efficient manner to support our kids."
Early last month, voters approved a combined $98,000 tax increase for the elementary and high school districts.
In past years, debating the proposed budget has been a "very painful, long process, and it was sacrificial," board vice chair Kathie Newell said. "This was heaven." Tuesday's budget meeting lasted a little over three hours. Newell said she remembered times when board members stayed past midnight to debate cuts.
Members have the relatively painless task of trimming $8,350 from the proposed high school budget this summer. They will meet in August to finalize the district's spending plan.
"This year, we had a little bit of money to work with," board chair Denise Thompson said. HPS administrators make the job easier by giving board members their proposals and telling them where they can make cuts and still get by, she added.
HPS director of operations Ric Floren said next year will probably be a leaner budgeting process as costs continue to rise. Regardless of what legislators decide to do with the school funding issue, state tax dollars will not increase until the next legislative session in two years, he said.
School officials who developed the proposed budget often outlined three separate options in areas like personnel, activities, plant operations and special education.
HPS will spend as much as $4.83 million next year at the middle school and elementary schools on personnel. Two teaching positions have been eliminated and administrative services have been cut. The high school will operate with the same number of people, and the district will spend as much as $2.72 million on personnel there.
Special education staff is budgeted separately. HPS will spend about $210,000 at the high school and $393,000 and the elementary and middle schools.
"Schools are an industry that are people-driven," Floren said. He said HPS uses about 83 percent of its budget to pay for personnel. That falls within the range of most other school districts across the state. Some smaller districts can use up to 90 percent ofor teachers and staff.
Floren has estimated it will cost more than $69,000 to heat the high school next year and more than $75,000 to keep the lights on and the computers running. At the middle and elementary schools, the district will spend $112,000 on natural gas and $123,000 on electricity.
The district will spend about $177,000 on supplies, software, books, field trips and other educational items at the high school.
"There's nothing there that's outside of what we've done the last few years. It's the nuts and bolts," HHS principal Jim Donovan.
HPS will spend as much as $85,000 on supplies, textbooks and instructional equipment at the middle school. The same will cost $142,000 for the elementary schools.
The district will purchase new social studies texts for the high school and new instructional materials for social studies, music and art at the elementary and middle schools.