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The Billings District 2 School Board meets at the Lincoln Center on Monday, November 20, 2017.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

A week ago, School District 2 Superintendent Terry Bouck said high schools were in “dire need” of a levy to raise schools’ budgets.

When trustees met for a special meeting Monday to consider that levy, other priorities won out.

Bouck instead recommended that trustees not run a levy, and trustees followed his lead. Trustees could still technically decide to run a high school or elementary levy until March, but it appears unlikely.

Trustees talked extensively about high school facilities needs and voter mood in the wake of a legislative budget move that raised local school taxes $40 million across the state in the next two years.

“We’ve got to be really smart,” said trustee Bruce McIntyre.

Bouck said with projected budget increases tied to enrollment, it appears high schools can weather a tight-belted budget cycle.

He admitted that his advice Monday was an about-face from last week, but said that passing a bond in 2019 to renovate high schools was a “higher priority.”

Several trustees said they were concerned that voters would be rankled by already higher taxes thanks to the legislature and that adding a levy might direct blame toward SD2. 

"We don't know what that's going to look like when that comes down, as far as the impression of the taxpayer," said trustee Mike Leo. 

The idea of running a bond during the fall of 2019 appear to have taken root among trustees and administrators. Some cited Lockwood's impending K-12 expansion vote, and some want to let a new superintendent get settled for a year before running a bond. Bouck is retiring at the end of the school year. 

"If I was here next year," Bouck said, "I think I'd spend the year taking the different options out to our staff and our community."

So far, administrators have eyeballed renovations for Daylis Stadium, an extensive Career Center remodel and likely upgrades at each high school — but price tags are still several months away. 

"We don't want to build any new buildings," Bouck said. 

High school enrollment is expected to increase in the coming years, as elementary enrollment remains flat. Renovations would also likely reflect an emphasis on career and technical education. 

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.