As the new version of the state budget passed another hurdle with state lawmakers Tuesday, Billings School District 2 officials have been watching closely and making some rough calculations.
“It’s certainly closer to what the governor proposed,” Superintendent Keith Beeman said.
At the beginning of the legislative session, Republicans responded to the governor’s budget proposal with a plan that called for a flat 5 percent cut from state education spending.
The latest proposed budget, a compromise between the governor’s office and Republican leaders in the Legislature, backs away from the 5 percent. Instead, it includes inflationary increases of 1 percent the first year and 2.43 percent the next.
The governor’s budget had included inflationary increases of 1.9 percent the first year and 1.53 percent the next.
That change means the elementary school district will receive $405,000 less under the compromise plan than it would have in the governor’s budget. The high school district will receive $234,000 less, Beeman said.
Still, he said, he’s happy to have solid figures with which to work.
“We really didn’t know where things were going to land,” he said. “We felt like a pendulum going back and forth.”
Beeman will present the new numbers to trustees during the next regular board meeting on May 16, and from there, they’ll go about building the district’s final budget.
The district had been facing a possible budget shortfall as big as $11.8 million by the end of the 2013 school year. The numbers from Helena are expected to bring that number down quite a bit.
Still, the district will be looking at making cuts to keep a balanced budget. Beeman’s office has proposed everything from eliminating steps and lanes raises from teacher salaries to keeping buildings dark during vacations.
The district is looking to save close to $1.2 million through staff attrition for the next school year. More than 30 teachers and administrators have announced their retirement from the district and most of those positions will be left unfilled when classes resume this fall.
A board vote last month to move Senior High and West High freshmen back their home campuses will save the district roughly $580,000.