Trustees delay setting levy, hoping for better information

   The District 10 school trustees are struggling with the idea of having a levy election in April, and before a decision is made, they hope to get some better information from the legislature in Helena.
   Superintendent of School Lynn Utterback tells the I-O, “We have two positions up for election this year.  
   Incumbents Joe Russell and Kip Judisch have filed for these positions.  Both are for three year terms.
   The deadline for write-in candidates for a trustee position to file declaration of intent is April 9. Absentee Ballots will be available by April 15. Election Day for Schools is May 5.
   While at Helena last week, the comment was shared that only seven or eight legislators really understand how our schools are funded.  “The purpose of this article,” says Utterback, “is to explain what our trustees are looking at for this years budget amounts. “
   He has included a graph that explains what makes up funding in the base and maximum general budget.
   To over simplify, schools must spend a minimum amount (base budget) and cannot expend more than the maximum budgeted amount determined by a formula that is affected greatly by the number of students in attendance at the school the previous year.  
   Since the legislature has not yet decided whether to increase the dollar value of each student or increase the level of other funding components in the formula, schools do not really know what their minimum or maximum budgets can be.  
   The one exception to the maximum budget for schools that drop in enrollment is that they can keep their budget frozen at last year’s level with voter permission.
   Our school revenues change based on increases or decreases each year based on enrollment figures and any increases in funding the legislature gives us to help keep up with inflation and rising costs for salary, benefits, energy costs, supplies, text books, technology, and services.  
   “Until the legislature puts these bills forward, we do not know for sure what our maximum or minimum budgets will be or how many dollars we would need to request to remain frozen at last year’s budget.” Utterback explains.
   He goes on to say, “However, it is of course the law of the land to require these budgets be set before we have this information.  So we have to guess what the legislature will do.  The later you wait, hopefully the better information you get.  But it is always guess. “
   Following is a question and answer with Superintendent Utterback: