School panel: Keep budget cuts

2010-06-14T21:53:00Z School panel: Keep budget cutsROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
June 14, 2010 9:53 pm  • 

Despite an influx of $1.8 million from May’s voter-approved elementary mill levy, the budget committee for Billings School District 2 will recommend that the School Board keep in place cuts the committee had recommended earlier this spring.

The cuts, together with the use of one-time federal stimulus dollars, amount to $1.96 million. Coupled with smaller-then-expected expenditures during the fiscal year, the district would be able to place into its reserves $7.29 million — money the district is going to need over the next couple years, said Trustee Joel Guthals.

Looking at projected state funding over the next two years, the district is facing a potential budget shortfall in 2012 of anywhere between $5.1 million and $10.3 million, said Thomas Harper, the district’s finance director.

“Before we fall off this cliff, let’s do all we can to save some money,” said committee member Bruce MacIntyre.

“We’re going to need that carry-over money,” said board Chairwoman Barbara Bryan.

The committee discussed for some time whether to keep its recommended cuts in place, the biggest of which was a reduction of 12.6 full-time equivalent employees in the elementary school district through attrition.

Some committee members argued that if there is money to fill those positions, the district should do it. Others said it was more important to show good fiscal stewardship in the face of a potential shortfall of millions of dollars in state funding.

“I’m very concerned about the (district’s) image,” said committee member Don Stanaway.

Speaking of the district’s duty to maintain a balanced budget, committee member Tom Bick said he thought the cuts were important.

“I think it would be irresponsible” to reverse the recommendation to cut, he said.

By the end of the meeting, the majority of the committee voted in favor of recommending to the board that the cuts take place. Only two voted against it.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or at 406-657-1231.

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