By Tim Leeds
Havre Superintendent Kirk Miller said that while the effects of recent legislation signed by Gov. Judy Martz will help, they won't be significant enough to change the plans for the Havre Public Schools.
"It's good that the fluctuation (in funding) is in a positive manner, but it sure doesn't change our planning structure," Miller said.
Martz signed SB390 into law last weekend. The measure provides $5.4 million in additional funding on a one-time basis for the schools and also allows districts to ask the local taxpayers for additional funding to cushion the loss of money from declining enrollment.
Miller said once the $5.4 million is allocated to all of the districts in Montana, based on their size, the amount Havre will receive will not be enough to make a significant impact. He said district staff is analyzing how much Havre will receive and exactly how much of an impact it will make right now.
Miller said the additional taxes that can be levied are a solution which must then be phased out over a five-year period, returning the districts using them to standard funding by the end of the period. He said it is the philosophy of the Havre Public Schools to deal with today's challenges today, rather than delaying them until later. He said it has been his experience that when the solutions to problems are delayed, the problems compound and leave a much bigger problem to be dealt with.
Miller said the district will not be asking local voters for additional money to delay the eventual budget reductions. He said they have established what they are going to do to deal with the problems right now, although the additional funding from SB390 and the 1.88 percent increase for the next two years in HB121, which is awaiting Martz's signature right now, will help in the future.
He said the Havre district began planning what to do to deal with the budget reductions many months ago, with the end result of the restructuring of the Havre Public Schools, approved on final reading by the Board of Trustees at their April 10 meeting.
"Our planning process is very structured," he said. "We had to plan for stability and plan for the future."
The restructuring approved by the board includes the closing of Devlin Elementary School and restructuring the elementary schools into three grade-level schools; reducing staff and classes at the Havre Middle School, and reducing staff, classes and programs, adding a pay-to-play for high school activities and eliminating the school paying for meals at trips for activities and reducing the general fund budget at the high school by 13 percent.
The district approved not renewing the contracts of some teachers as a part of the restructuring at the March 13 meeting of the board. The restructuring eliminated the need for for six FTE (full time equivalent) certified staff and three FTE classified staff at the elementary schools, three FTE certified staff at the middle school and three FTE certified staff at the high school.
The board also approved asking the local taxpayers for an increase of about 9.53 mills, about $174,000, to make up the remainder of the estimated budget deficit. The deficit for next year was estimated at about $660,000 for all of the Havre Public Schools.