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Enrollment increase prompts Billings School Board trustees to ask state for more high school money

Posted at 10:33 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 00:33:20-05

BILLINGS — Based on an enrollment increase of 117 students in the Billings high schools in the 2020-21 school year, Billings School District 2 trustees requested an additional $238,000 for the high school budget from the state Office of Public Instruction at their Monday night meeting.

The Billings School District's budget is generally broken up into two pots of money, one for the elementary schools and one for the high schools. Both budgets receive a majority of funding from the state generally based on enrollment numbers.

The high school enrollment increase allowed the board to ask the state for more money this year, said Craig Van Nice, the district's chief financial officer.

Trustees unanimously approved both a budget proclamation and budget petition to move forward for state approval at the meeting.

The high school budget was already forecasted to have a $500,000 surplus at the end of the school year, Van Nice said. The additional money from the state will bring the surplus closer to $750,000, Van Nice said.

The elementary budget is estimated to be about $500,000 short this year due to an enrollment drop of about 600 students, Van Nice said. The additional money from the state in the high school budget could be shifted around partially cover the elementary deficit, Van Nice Said.

“Those really offset one another and looking at a transfer to the multi-district fund at the end of the year, we wouldn’t have one. Those would really net each other out and we would be left with no transfer to the multi-district fund," Van Nice said.

The multi-district fund allows the school district to put unspent money in a pot to be used in future years. Prior to its creation, school districts would have to "use or loose" the money that went unspent at the end of the year, Van Nice told the Billings Chamber of Commerce in April.

If all goes well with the request to the state, School District trustees would have to approve a budget resolution in January, with the district getting the money in the bank early February 2021, Van Nice said.

In other school budget news, Van Nice shared an estimate from the Montana School Board Association saying the Billings school district could receive another $13 million in federal coronavirus relief money from the spending package passed by congress Monday night.

The legislation now awaits a signature from President Donald Trump, but Van Nice said details were scant on how exactly the school district could spend the money. Van Nice said the rules look to be in line with the district's last allocation from the CARES Act congress passed in March, but he was checking up on emails during the board meeting to learn more.

RELATED: Billings School District 2 sees enrollment dip due to home schooling