Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hi l l County Commission Monday at the recommendation of the County Superintendent of Schools increased the county wide mill levy used to pay transportation and retirement accounts in the county school districts. The Commission approved a total $200,870.46 increase, up 7.06 mills. The increase included the full request of the Havre Public Schools, the North Star schools in Rudyard and the Hill County share of the CJI consolidated school in Chester, which includes the town of Inverness in Hill County, as well as the full request of the Bear Paw Cooperative and the elementary schools in the county. Hill County Superintendent Shirley Isbell said the amount is a reduction of the original amount requested, with the schools at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and Box Elder reducing their requests before the amounts were presented Monday. “They said they would like to make some changes, and they did,” she said. That saved a couple of mills in the tax increase, taking it from a 9.43 mill increase to the 7.06 mills, she said. Box Elder schools were able to apply some grants received after the initial request was submitted A. J. LaMere, district clerk for the Rocky Boy schools, said the district reduced its request after it found it was requesting funding from the county that was not allowable. The district reduced its request and found other sources for that retirement funding, he said. The amount recommended for HPS was the amount the Havre district requested, although Isbell said during a meeting two weeks ago that she would not recommend the full amount Havre requested. At that time, Isbell said the number of paraprofessionals, such as special education staff members, indicated that Havre was probably asking for county funds for retireMent that should have been paid through grants. Under Montana law, staff members whose income is paid through grant funding, such as federal special education grants, must also have their retirement funds paid through those grants, Isbell said. After the Sept. 15 meeting, Havre Superintendent Dennis Parman said the district was only asking for retirement funds that should be requested through the county-wide tax. After the meeting Monday, Isbell said an audit showed that statement was true. The correct percentage of the grant funds were used to pay retirement funds, as required, and the amount the Havre schools requested from the county tax was correct. “That’s all that I can go by,” she said. Parman said after the meeting that he appreciates the approval of the funding. While he realizes it is a tax increase, it is necessary to keep full staffing in order for the school district to do its job, and that takes money, he said. “Ours is a people business,” Parman said. “It takes people to run our business.” In a breakdown of the amounts requested, the request for transportation funds countywide increased $23,742.33, for a total of $213.220.10. The elementary schools’ retirement fund requests increased $103,453.04, for a total of $850,318.34. The high school's retirement fund requests increased $73,675.09 for a total of $508,426.03. The largest increases requested were from the Havre district, which received an increase in elementary retirement funds of $149,185 for a total of $1,030,450 and an increase in high school retirement funds of $90,025 for a total of $676,025. The average number of elementary students in Havre computed by averaging the number at the start of the year and the number at a date in February was listed as 1,320 and the average number of its high school students at 684. The amount needed for retirement varies each year by district depending on their employment structure. The number of employees and the employees’ rate of pay impacts the amount needed for retirement funds. If a teacher retires and is replaced with a teacher at a lower rate of pay, for example, the amount needed for retirement is reduced. Box Elder reduced its net elementary retirement fund request by $10,965 for a total of $240,732 and received an increase in its high school retirement funds of $17,332 for a total of $114,660. The average number of elementary students in Box Elder was listed at 316, with 97 in the high school. Rocky Boy reduced i t s request for elementary retirement funds by $53,613 for a total of $336,686, and its request for high school retirement funds by $29,628 for a total of $151,572. The average number of elementary students in Rocky Boy was listed at 358 with 154 in the high school. The other elementary and high school districts in the county received smaller adjustments, with Davey Elementary School receiving a $2,737 retirement fund increase and North Star Elementary receiving a $4,485 increase. Cot tonwood Elementary School received a $1,613 decrease in its retirement funding, Chester-Joplin-Inverness a $3,416 decrease for its elementary school and the Gildford Colony elementary school received a $23 decrease. The Bear Paw Cooperative education program based in Chinook also received a small increase in retirement funding from Hill County, $1,485. The North Star and CJI requested and received small decreases in their high school retirement funding, $4,969 and $1,174, respectively.