The budget committee for Billings School District 2 met Monday night to define its role as the new school and financial year begin for the district.
The committee, which reports to the school board, will spend its first few months this year focusing on district expenditures, specifically looking at areas where SD2 can be more efficient, said Joel Guthals, a board trustee and chairman of the budget committee.
Once the State Legislature goes into session early next spring and SD2 begins to see what kind of funding it will receive, the budget committee will begin looking at building the district budget.
Part of the efficiency planning will include ideas that committee members offered to Thomas Harper, SD2’s finance director, to help the district save money. Some of the proposals included advocating early retirement for employees, more effective use of district copiers and printers and outsourcing some custodial work.
Harper and his staff would evaluate each idea and report back to the committee on whether it’s feasible and how much money it would save the district.
Speaking on efficiency, Harper gave an update to the committee on the district’s efforts to reduce its copier and printer use and negotiate more favorable contracts with copier service and paper companies.
In July, a representative from the Boise, Idaho-based company Optimizon took committee members through a 20-page report showing the different steps that the district could take to reduce its copy costs. The company estimated the district could save close to $800,000 over four years by tightening up its contracts with copy vendors and using more efficient printers and copiers.
Of that $800,000, Optimizon would take about 30 percent for its fees. So the district is also looking at the option of doing some of the efficiency work itself.
“We’re still weighing the pros and cons of which way we’re going to go,” Harper said.
Members of the committee, which is made up of board trustees, district employees and community residents, spoke passionately on both sides of the issue.
Trustee Lindy Graves suggested using members of the district’s IT staff to improve copier efficiency now that SD2 has moved away from servers and is using Google’s Internet-based data storage and management service.
Given the district’s size and that amount of paper that it uses, Guthals advocated using an outside service.
“This is an area that takes special expertise,” he said.
Harper said he would report back to the committee once he and Superintendent Keith Beeman decided on a direction.
Contact Rob Rogers at email@example.com or 657-1231.