By Tim Leeds
Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller said the full impact on Havre schools of legislation passed in this year's legislative session has yet to be determined.
"We're trying to make considered decisions based upon several things that are yet to be determined in the budget scenario," Miller said.
Miller said the 1.88 percent budget increase over each of the next two years is tentative, for one thing. He said it is set for the first year of the biennium, but must be approved by the voters for the next or it will drop to a .79 percent increase for the second.
He said the impact of much of the other legislation passed is also unsure at this point, with some of it still waiting the voter approval.
Director of Operations Ric Floren said it isn't much, if any, of an increase for the Havre Public Schools' planned budgets.
"Some folks might be perceiving what came about in the legislature as some kind of windfall," Floren said. "We were anticipating it. It solidifies our two- and three-year planning."
He said the district factored in former Gov. Marc Racicot's planned zero percent the first year and 3 percent increase the second, and the Legislature's increase is only .76 percent higher than that, if it passes. He said the continuing drop in enrollment will still be a problem, as well.
"One thing it's important that folks understand is that even with the possibility of additional revenue provided by the state, the Havre Public Schools elementary budget will once again go down and the Havre High School budget will be frozen," he said. "Taxpayers will see minimal, but some, tax relief, as opposed to a potential for a significant tax increase."
But the declining enrollments will continue to cut the district's budgets, he said.
Miller said another problem came because while the 1.88 percent increase passed, other actions cut funds for programs already in place.
"Cuts to school improvement in programs at state level are going to impact all school districts in Montana," Miller said.
Miller said where the schools originally had money for some programs they no longer have it, such as for implementation of state content, performance standards, statewide professional development
in standards and assessment, and in the mandated Iowa assessment tests.
Miller said they have been required by the state to conduct the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for grades four and eight, and the Iowa Test of Educational development for grade 11 and publish the results. The state has a three-year contract with Riverside Publishing, which puts out the tests, but there is no money to pay for the last two years of the contract, Miller said.
He said they are in negotiations with Riverside about where the contract stands, but what exactly will happen is unknown.
"The possibility exists that the local school districts will need to provide funding for the tests," Miller said.