Board asking Lewistown voters for mill levy

Doreen Heintz

During their March regular school board meeting held on Wednesday, March 22, the Lewistown Board of Trustees approved asking the voters in the Lewistown Elementary School District for a 5.54 mill levy increase. The date of the meeting had been changed from Monday, March 13 to Wednesday of this week.
Although there are still several budget unknowns according to Lewistown Business Manager/Clerk Rebecca Rhoades, the 2017-2018 elementary projected budget will have a shortfall of $409,285.19 without the passage of 5.54 mill levy. If the mill levy is successful the projected shortfall would be reduced to $340,679.99.
Although a shortfall is expected in the high school, it is not possible to run a mill levy. The projected shortfall in the high school is expected to be $233,030.08.
Rhoades explained to the Board that HB 191 gives school districts an inflationary increase of 0.5 percent. Being the Montana Legislature is still in session, Rhoades did not know if there would be any additional state funds for school districts.
The biggest cause for the shortfall, according to Rhoades, is the fact there are 40 less students in the February school count this year than there was in 2016. The 40 student decrease amounts to 40 less ANB from the state. ANB stands for average number belonging and is calculated using the average number of students each district had during an October and a February schools count. This ANB is used for state funding of the schools.
Budget unknowns at the present time include Federal Title Grant funding, health insurance rates for the next school year and the number of sections required for kindergarten/first grade. A kindergarten screening is scheduled for April 4 and 5 at the First Christian Church. After the screening, a better estimate of kindergarten students should be known. The insurance committee of the Board will be meeting with insurance companies the first week of April in order to finalize health insurance rates for the next school year.
After more discussion, the Board by a 5-0 vote (Troy Kelsey and Monte Weeden were absent) approved asking the voters to approve the elementary general fund levy. The election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2.

Board approves lengthy personnel report
Under the personnel report, the Board approved several resignations and one new teacher. Kristina Smith will be a new English teacher at the junior high, replacing Candice Dunn, who is retiring. Several other teaching positions will be filled in the upcoming weeks.
Letters of resignation were approved from kindergarten resource teacher Krista Arntzen, bus driver Becky Baszczuk, school food service employee at Highland Park Susan Kucera, and instructor at CMEC for testing and tutoring Paula Perry-Walker.
Chad Francis and Jodi Tombarege were hired as bus drivers. Zabrea Fiscus was hired as a paraprofessional at the junior high. The board also approved for spring sports volunteer coaches: Stephen Gruener and Wendy Jensen for tennis, Mike Hamling for track, and Danny Wirtzberger for  softball.

In other business
In other actions by the Board
• approval of out-of-district students to attend the Lewistown Public Schools;
• approval of multi-district agreement for technology services.
The meeting was adjourned at 6:45 p.m. The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for April 10 at 6 p.m.



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