The Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose school board has announced that large budget cuts are coming to the entire district. This includes the closing of Discovery elementary and Phoenix learning center, shutting down all middle school activities, and removing several high school activities. In the 2019-2020 year alone the board will be removing 10 teaching positions district-wide, and in the 2020-2021 school year a total of 22 more teachers will be removed. The budget cuts will also include reducing how much the district will spend on staff, transportation, testing, and general maintenance in schools.
This is due to the excess funds, money previously not in use, being spent in order to maintain current activities, teaching jobs, programs (i.e. wRight choice, Quest, etc.), school supplies, and more. Because the excess funds have been shrinking every year, the school board has moved forward with cutting overall spending in the district. Without more funding for the BHM schools, the district has been slowly coming closer and closer to overspending. A levy to increase funding for the BHM school district will be held in the fall, open for anyone 18 years or older to vote on it.
Everything you need to know about the 2019-2020 cuts:
Teaching and learning curriculum purchase reductions: Schools will have to spend less on materials like laptops, instruments, other one time purchases used in learning/teaching.
$50 transportation waiver credit program eliminated: Students who opt out of using the school buses will no longer receive $50 in credit, meaning high schoolers will now have to pay for all four quarters of parking passes.
Hiring freeze, english learner position added, reduce 10 FTE teaching positions: Five full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers will not be replaced after their retirement. Despite the district hiring one English teacher there will still be a total reduction of ten teachers, creating bigger class sizes.
Energy management savings through temperature control changes: Lights will be turned off or reduced in areas of schools that can afford to be without lights, air conditioning and heating will be less effective/dramatic, making winter colder and summer hotter.
Clerical position reduction: Once Bette Mattson, attendent secretary for the high school, retires, the district will not hire anyone to replace her.
Superintendent contingency budget reduced: The superintendent will have less money to put towards resources for BHM schools in need of sudden help.
Everything you need to know about the 2020-2021 cuts
Activities: BHM has announced that they will cut five high school activities, and every middle school activity, if the budget reduction does occur. The proposed activity cuts include Boy’s Swim and Dive, the Dance Team, Business Professionals of America (BPA), Universe Arts Publication (formerly Pegasus), and Boy’s and Girl’s Lacrosse. The 2019-2020 budget will already increase participation fees district-wide for remaining activities, as well as higher entrance fees for events. However, the 2020-2021 budget proposes further raising both by an average of 16%.
Education: BHM has announced the reduction of 22 teachers, 4 educational support positions, the elimination of wRight choice, the elimination of the Quest program, reduction of college in school (CIS) options, the elimination of the ACT testing waiver for non-qualifying students, and the closing of Phoenix Learning Center and Discovery elementary schools. Further reductions to curriculum purchases and supply purchases are included. Class sizes will increase district-wide.
Answering the question everyone has about the budget cuts…
If the school can afford a new football field, how come it can’t afford to keep teachers?
I’ve asked Mischke to explain that, and here is his answer:
“We’re a government agency… it’s not like private industry where you can run a business and do what you want with your money. In schools, if you get bond money… if you ask for bond money at a district level, the only thing you can spend it on is things [buildings]. We cannot spend it on people. I cannot spend money that would go to the football field on people… What you’ll hear us talk a lot about in the next couple years is levy dollars. Levies [are] for learning, this is your people stuff. So if we get levy money, then I can hire teachers. Then I can hire cooks, custodians, paraprofessionals, secretaries, people.”
What does this mean for the future?
The budget cuts for the 2019-2020 school year are set in stone and going to happen, and coming September they will be in place. However, the reductions for the 2020-2021 school year are only finalized (meaning there won’t be any changes to the budget cuts should nothing be done to change them). No official levy has been announced yet, however, the School Board alluded to one in their last public meeting. If a levy is announced, it will be voted on during the fall of 2019. Should it pass, taxes would increase district-wide and the 2020-2021 budget cuts would be altered if not reverted.