SD2 to look at eliminating teaching, other posts

2010-01-25T22:00:00Z SD2 to look at eliminating teaching, other postsROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
January 25, 2010 10:00 pm  • 

Looking at a nearly $1 million budget shortfall in the high school district, the Board of Trustees for Billings School District 2 will consider eliminating eight teaching positions at its three high schools through attrition.

The board’s budget committee, which met with the Board of Trustees Monday night, recommended the cuts on the advice of district leaders, who said the impact would be minimal.

“No programs or opportunities will be eliminated for the next year,” said Scott Anderson, the district executive director of secondary education.

Budget deficit

The high school district faces a total budget deficit of $914,790 for the next school year. Eliminating the eight teaching positions would save the district about $500,000.

The committee also advised the board to cut a special-education and a curriculum assessment position for a total $72,349 and do away with its office of development and assessment, which processes education data, for a savings of $25,000.

The combined cuts — along with $317,893 in federal one-time money that the board will add to the high school budget — would total $915,242.

The district tried to keep the proposed cuts from affecting students as much as possible, said Superintendent Jack Copps.

“I do not see any significant impact on curriculum or student/teacher ratio,” Copps said.

The board spent the first hour of the joint meeting debating whether to use its one-time money, which the district received in the form of federal stimulus dollars.

Trustee Joel Guthals argued for its use, saying the board wasn’t willing to make drastic cuts — like creating cluster schools — and so it needed to take other measures.

“The funds have been allocated to be used,” he said.

Trustee Mary Jo Fox said the board needed to be careful of how reliant it becomes on the federal dollars.

“It behooves us to be conservative with the one-time money because it’s one-time money,” she said.

Using federal funds

Ultimately, the full board voted 8-1 to use the federal money — roughly $1 million for the elementary school district and $317,000 for the high school district — to help balance its budget. Fox voted against the measure.

After the vote, Guthals pleaded with trustees and the budget committee to figure a way to fix its chronic budget shortfalls.

“Our district needs to make significant, substantial, structural changes ... to get off this quickly descending roller coaster,” he said.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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