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Copps to be offered 2% raise
Billings Public Schools trustees decided Monday to offer Superintendent of Schools Jack Copps a two-year contract and raise.

Billings Public Schools trustees decided Monday to offer Superintendent of Schools Jack Copps a two-year contract and raise.

The wage hike will be conservative - 2 percent - in light of a struggling local and national economy and concerns that the Billings community would not support a larger raise.

Copps currently makes $127,308 a year. A 2 percent raise would bring his salary to $129,854 a year, a raise of about $5,000 over the two years of the contract.

Copps did not attend the meeting. He had surgery on his arm Friday and expected to attend but did not feel well enough, chairwoman Kathy Kelker said. She and trustee Joel Guthals, the vice chair, are to negotiate the contract with Copps.

"I know he has the energy and interest, whether he'll sign the contract remains to be seen," Guthals said.

Kelker said the superintendent's wages are too low for the size of Billings Public Schools and, when the time comes, the district may not be able to recruit a replacement without increasing wages.

Guthals said he and Kelker discussed a salary of $140,000 a year - about $13,000 more than the current contract - to be reached over the two-year contract. However, trustees wanted to offer 2 percent and add to the difference by increasing Copps' benefits package.

Part of the rationale for offering a lesser increase is that the district is facing operating deficits in the next biennium.

The Budgeting for Results Committee voted unanimously to recommend the board ask voters for an operating mill levy for the elementary district and a technology levy for the high school district.

The technology levy, which could be sunsetted, would provide more money to the high school district than a levy, trustee and committee chairman Malcolm Goodrich said.

Trustees chose not to vote on their intent to float a mill levy - money that is used for operating expenses, as opposed to a bond issue for construction - but said they may do so in a special meeting. Consensus on the board was that there is a responsibility to ask residents to help offset funding not provided by the state.

Based on the governor's proposed budget, the Billings elementary district could have a $1.2 million deficit next year and the high school district could have a $1.5 million deficit.

The trustees also saw a conceptual design for Cottonwood Elementary.

Developed by a task force and JGA Architects, the design is a building basically divided into quadrants that separates grades by kindergarten-second grade, third-fourth and fifth-sixth with a fourth area that houses a commons and administration. Each quadrant incorporates a breakout area when students could work outside of classrooms and an outdoor learning area.

The task force and architects are working on cost estimates, including bringing utilities to the site. Trustees also discussed how many students the school could accommodate.

The board discussed legislative issues, including upcoming trips to Helena to lobby the Legislature. Copps and Dan Martin, human resources director, have been designated as lobbyists for the district.

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