Ennis school board decides on general fund levy

Voters in the Ennis School District will have two levies to vote on May 3 as the Ennis School Board approved a second levy for the ballot at their regular meeting last week.

With state funding for the next two years still unknown, the school board decided to ask voters to approve a general fund levy based on the worst case numbers they could settle on.

The general fund levy will be for $103,000 and be used to bring the district general fun up to current levels, said superintendent Doug Walsh at last Wednesday’s meeting.

“We have to look at the worst case scenario and hope for the best,” Walsh said at the meeting.

The plan is to ask for $103,000 but if the state comes in with more funding, the district will levy less in taxes. But the way it stands now, $103,000 is the biggest deficit the school district will face this year, he said.

The Ennis school district is also running a new five-year building reserve levy this year that will replace the expiring building reserve levy. This levy would raise about $60,000 a year for five years.

Like other schools in the county and across the state, Ennis School District depends on state funding to fill their general fund, which is the portion of its budget used to pay for teachers and programs.

If state funding doesn’t come down and the general fund levy isn’t passed, the school is going to be faced with some tough decisions and likely have to make cuts, Walsh said.

“If the levy doesn’t pass, we’re going to have some issues,” he said.

This could mean cuts in staffing levels, Walsh said.

To make matters worse, federal funding for special education programs is likely to get cut as well and that could also mean cuts in staff, he said.

“Do you feel we can make it through the next budgeted year without doing that?” board member Jim McNally asked Walsh.

“I don’t know that,” he replied.

The idea however is, that when you’re faced with cuts, to make them in areas that don’t directly impact kids, Walsh said.

In other school board news, the school board completed Walsh’s evaluation as bus supervisor, which had been tabled since the February meeting. The evaluation was done in a closed door meeting, but board chairman Marc Glines said the evaluation was favorable.

The board also announced that due to the tight budget, Walsh wouldn’t receive the $12,000 bonus stipulated in his contract for bus supervisor.

Ennis resident Kelly Robinson asked Glines if Walsh’s bonus would have come out of next year’s budget or the current year’s budget.

If Walsh were to be given a bonus, it would have come from this year’s budget, Glines said.

He also said that Walsh was the only school employee that was up for a bonus.

The school board also announced that Ennis Schools received the Montana Academic Achievement award for never failing to make performance benchmarks established by the state. This announcement received applause from the more than 30 people present at the meeting.

The kindergarten through eighth grade principal Brian Hilton discussed the school’s plan to move into the new school building, which started this week. The preparation for the move has involved finding space for teachers and students during the transition, Hilton said.

“At this point we have a location for all staff and students,” he said. “Our middle school teachers will be nomads for a little while.”

The sixth through eighth grade students will be in the high school while the next phase of construction takes place, Hilton said.

The main thing he has told his staff is to try and be flexible through the process, as undoubtedly issues will arise.

High School principal John Sullivan talked with the board about sending teachers to an AP Academy this summer to qualify them to offer more advanced placement courses for high school students.

Sullivan would like to offer students AP courses in English, government, chemistry and calculus.

“If it’s something we want to do, I think it’s important we get them trained,” he told the board.

The trainings would cost $750 per teacher.

The board also voted to hire back all tenured teachers and various staff positions.

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