SD2 board approves budget for coming school year

2012-08-20T22:25:00Z 2012-08-21T00:20:27Z SD2 board approves budget for coming school yearStories By ROB ROGERS The Billings Gazette

In a special meeting Monday night, the School District 2 board held a hearing and approved its $104 million general fund budget for the coming school year.

State law requires the district to hold a public hearing on the budget before it is approved. No one from the public participated in Monday’s hearing.

The board approved the budget in two parts — one vote for the elementary district budget, which passed 4-2; and one vote for the high school district, which passed 5-3.

The nine-member board was short Trustee Greta Besch Moen, who missed the first part of the meeting.

Trustees Lindy Graves and Connie Wardell voted against the budget, expressing frustration that the district had to dip into reserves to balance it this year and that nothing was set aside for an anticipated bump in student enrollment this school year.

“We need to focus on what’s a priority for the kids,” Graves said.

He told trustees that voting for this budget is “kicking the can down the road,” as it does nothing to address the district’s long-term budget issues.

Many of those issues sprout from an unfair state funding formula that puts SD2 at a great disadvantage, Wardell said.

As such, she said, the district needs to fight for funding equality and, in the meantime, live within its means.

“I don’t like that we don’t live within the funds we have,” she said.

Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe joined Graves and Wardell in voting against the high school budget, expressing similar concerns.

The board balanced the budget earlier this summer in part by dipping into reserves. The district had been looking at a $826,000 deficit.

To dip into its reserve, trustees had to vote to suspend the board’s policy requiring the district to maintain a 5 percent reserve.

Following the vote, new Superintendent Terry Bouck said the priority of the district now needs to be building up that reserve again.

State law requires that the district have its budget turned in to the Office of Public Instruction by the end of the week.

Following the budget hearing, trustees voted to approve a settlement with Dustin Ferguson, a past student who was injured moving wrestling mats at Senior High in 2008.

The settlement was for $22,000, which will be paid by the district’s insurance provider.

However, the district will have to pay a $15,000 deductible.

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