In a special meeting Monday night, the Ennis School Board paved the way to run a general fund levy this spring.
Armed with a better prediction on school funding from the legislature, Ennis superintendent Doug Walsh told the board and about 25 citizens in attendance that the school district could be facing a $75,000 to $102,000 shortfall in the general fund appropriations from the state.
The figures come out of a Senate Bill 403, sponsored by Llew Jones, R – Conrad, which passed second reading the Senate Tuesday on a 25-24 vote.
Right now the Jones’ bill is the only school funding legislation going, Walsh told the board.
The projected shortfall is based on this year’s general fund numbers, Walsh said after the meeting.
In Montana, school districts have several funds within their budget. The general fund is largely devoted to kids and staff, he said. The state has a formula and tells each district what the minimum and maximum amount is they can have in their general fund.
The Ennis School District typically has their general fund at slightly less than the state maximum and hasn’t had to run a general fund levy for several years, Walsh said.
The goal is to keep the general fund budget for next year at this year’s level, which was about $2,599,946, he said.
That could mean asking voters to fund a general fund levy, said Marc Glines, chairman of the Ennis School Board.
“If it turns out we do need to run a levy then we’re set up to run a levy,” Glines said of the board’s decision Monday night.
Voters must approve any addition to the general fund, Walsh said. The school board can’t shift money into it from another fund in the budget.
Over all the number of mills levied by the Ennis School District has dropped from about 92 mills a couple of years ago to about 74 mills this year, he said. However, the total amount of money in the budget has increased incrementally each year as taxable valuations in the school district have continued to increase, making each mill more valuable.
At Monday’s meeting, the school board also agreed to not give out any bonuses this year, Glines said.
The question of a bonus has been the center of controversy recently as Walsh, who is also employed as a two-thirds time bus supervisor for the district, could potentially have received a $12,000 bonus.
Walsh’s evaluation as bus supervisor will be held next month, but no matter how the evaluation turns out, he will not be receiving a bonus, Glines said.
The public comment at the meeting was brief, but three people voiced their support of the school board, including Bob Briggs, manager at Valley Bank in Ennis.
“I wanted to say thank you for the school board present and school board past for having the foresight to build a new school and its not going to cost us anymore tax dollars,” Briggs said.
The next school board meeting will be April 6. Walsh’s evaluation will be at 5 p.m. and the regular board meeting will start at 6.
The school will also host tours of the new school building this Friday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. People interested in going on the tour need to meet at the school lunchroom. For more information call 682-4258.