Budget uncertainty leaves Hamilton teachers in limbo

2011-04-12T21:38:00Z 2011-04-13T12:41:04Z Budget uncertainty leaves Hamilton teachers in limboBy DAVID ERICKSON - Ravalli Republic Ravalli Republic

On Tuesday, all 27 non-tenured teachers in the Hamilton School District were notified that their contracts may not be renewed for next year because of the uncertainty the district faces regarding the 2011-12 general fund budget.

School board members decided to take this unprecedented action at their April 11 meeting, when they also passed a resolution setting June 14 as a date to put an operations levy before the voters, if necessary.

"We've never done anything like this before," said Hamilton School District superintendent Duby Santee. "When we look at what's coming out of the state Legislature, we need to have some latitude. We are looking at a worst-case scenario, that is in House Bill 2, of a $500,000 deficit in our general fund. That would mean the reduction of 14 full-time-equivalent staff. This is hard on everybody. The timing is just awful."

The teachers were told Tuesday that at the May 9 school board meeting, trustees will decide which of the 27 will not be given contracts for next year. Santee said that in the best-case scenario, all of the contracts would be renewed, but the school board decided to give the teachers a heads-up just in case.

"Near as we can tell, in the best-case scenario we would only have a deficit of about $100,000," he said. "We can deal with that. But if it gets any bigger than that we have a problem. We actually had some teachers that wanted us to let them know where they stood, so that's why we took the action of notifying them today. We can't pretend that this isn't happening. If the Legislature goes into a special session, then we need some time to react."

Santee said that the school district doesn't have any idea what their financial situation will be next year.

"We don't have any solid numbers to work with," he said. "If the Legislature comes up with numbers close to what the governor has proposed, then we will be in decent shape. But there is such a disparity in what the governor wants to do and what the legislative committee wants to do, and they are putting this off until the end of the session. That has kind of forced us to do some things we wouldn't ordinarily do."

Santee said he hadn't heard any reaction from the teachers on Tuesday.

"They are kind of just now getting the news," he said. "I'm guessing on Wednesday I will hear more from them about it. This is absolutely unprecedented, but unfortunately the Legislature has put us in this situation."

Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com.

Reach reporter Whitney Bermes at whitney.bermes@ravallirepublic.com.


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(14) Comments

  1. Corrine Gantt
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    Corrine Gantt - April 17, 2011 1:29 pm
    As a school board trustee, I strongly suggest that if you have questions about where funds come from and how they can be used, contact the Hamilton School District business office at 363-2280.

    It's true that the funds used to purchase the house behind Daly Elementary came from the transportation fund, which can onlt be used for transportation and transportation safety related projects. The traffic issue at Daly is something that has needed a practical solution for at least 20 years. Under current state law, we are not able to use those funds for teacher's salaries or technical expenses or anything but transportation issues. The city does not have any direct involvement in the project, but were are consulting with both them and the county to make sure we are following their guidelines. The challenge is that the city and county boundaries intersect at the school.

    As far as the skate park, the ball is in the city's court. The city and skate park representatives brought an initial offer to the district months ago. We asked to negotiate, perhaps for services that would be mutually beneficial, and then we set up a meeting. The city cancelled that meeting and we are still waiting for them to reschedule. At the District, we would very much like to see a plan as to how the skate park will look and be supervised before we turn over taxpayer's property. As has been mentioned before, any property transfer will need the approval of the voters.

    At the District, we don't have the luxury of making up the rules to fit our situations. We are bound by current state laws as to how we can allocate our funds. Perhaps, if you don't like the way things work, you should contact you State Representatives and Senators.
  2. Hillbilly
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    Hillbilly - April 17, 2011 7:59 am
    This is a revenue problem! Montana has to work within a balanced budget as all states do. Blaming legislators for making necessary cuts isn't politics. Icemoth; calling me an idiot for stating this opinion makes you look like an ass.
  3. Hillbilly
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    Hillbilly - April 16, 2011 8:20 am
    The funding is not there for education! In order balance our budget, unpopular cuts must be made in every sector. This is a revenue problem. Job loses equal less tax revenue and less money to spend. Go back to high school economics class.
  4. icemoth
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    icemoth - April 14, 2011 9:03 pm
    Hillbilly said: "No jobs = no tax revenue and that causes cuts in gov't employees. Gov't employees are finally getting what the private sector is suffering through. Welcome to our world!"
    Hillbilly... Really? You are either way off the grid or you're just plain not paying attention. This is not a revenue problem, this a Political Problem. I could just as easily state "Hillbilly = IDIOT" Yeah? The funding is there for education, unfortunately, they don't want to do it. period.
  5. Hamgal
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    Hamgal - April 14, 2011 8:32 am
    JMO2- I am not exactly sure what the city's involvement (or lack there of) is in the project. Again, this would be a great question to ask someone at the district office. It would be my guess that the city will have very limited involvement in this project due to the fact that the new construction is being completed solely on private property (owned by the district). Just to clarify, either way (if done by the city or the district), the project is being paid for by Hamilton taxpayers. Again, a great question for the superintendant.
  6. Hillbilly
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    Hillbilly - April 14, 2011 8:24 am
    No jobs = no tax revenue and that causes cuts in gov't employees. Gov't employees are finally getting what the private sector is suffering through. Welcome to our world!
  7. Downstream Observer
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    Downstream Observer - April 14, 2011 7:12 am
    JMO2, The Missoula engineering firm employees pay levies in their town too and hopefully volunteer there. I wonder how public perception would change if the School Board did something for the kids like gave land for a skate park?
  8. just my opinion2
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    just my opinion2 - April 13, 2011 7:34 pm
    To Citizen – I am not JMO. I am JMO2. You are correct on one thing I do need you to enlighten me on why there is not a clause written into a mill levy that would allow for the reallocation of funds during financial crisis and budget short falls with a community vote. It is true I never said what funds money came out of, but I knew the money came from the Transportation Fund.
    HamGal – If you could enlighten me also as to what the city is doing for this project?
  9. grizfan
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    grizfan - April 13, 2011 5:14 pm
    We are indeed in a time of uncertainty. Hamilton School District is not the only district facing budget issues. I am currently working for Corvallis School District and there is much uncertainty about what staff continue to be employed after the end of this school year. It is very sad that this seems to be the "norm" all across the country.

  10. Citizen
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    Citizen - April 13, 2011 4:07 pm
    JMO - it is indeed a sad state of affairs! When someone with no knowledge of what happened starts spouting misleading information to drive home a point that they themselves will likely never understand. You do that continuously in these forums and what is sad is that some people actually believe you. You are doing a serious disservice to the youth of Hamilton.
  11. Duby Santee
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    Duby Santee - April 13, 2011 12:05 pm
    The district used transportation funds to purchase the house. Transportation funds can only be used for this purpose. They cannot be used for teacher salaries. In this case, no teacher jobs would have been saved if the district had not purchased the house. The opportunity presented itself at this time to solve a traffic problem that has existed for many years. The total number of mills levied by the district has decreased from 195 in 2004 to 168 in 2010 even with the purchase of the house. The tech levy would add abour 10 mills to this total for the average home owner. We are using local contractors as much as possibe. State law requires that we put the project out to bid when construction time comes. Local contractors will have the opportunity to bid on the project at that time.
  12. Blah
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    Blah - April 13, 2011 11:05 am
    i believe the 100,000 is spread out in payments, 30 years? i'm sure any construction is put out to competitve bid per state law.
  13. Hamgal
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    Hamgal - April 13, 2011 10:39 am
    The money that goes to these sorts of projects comes out of a different pot of money (not the general fund where teacher salaries come from). The money to buy the house behind Daly and reconstruct the road in order to ease traffic flow comes from the transportation fund. This fund is levied through homeowner taxes and is levied without a vote. This issue is something the city has been asking Hamilton School District to do for years (have you ever driven down Daly Ave. between 2:40 and 3:15!??) and is in the best interest of the community's safety.

    Unfortunately not doing this project does not mean any more people keep their jobs (again because the $ is from 2 different places). Rest assured the district would not put concrete and asphalt above teacher jobs. The district wants to keep the teachers more than anyone, I am sure. If you have further inquaries about this, I would encourage you to call the district office to get your facts straight.
  14. just my opinion2
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    just my opinion2 - April 13, 2011 8:25 am
    What a sad state of affairs!! Let’s see:
    1) If they did not purchase a house to tear down and put in a road at Daly School $100,000.00
    2) Award WGM (Missoula) a contract to design and construction manage for $78,000.00.
    So there are 2 things that could have saved money for the school district and kept money in the area. How many teaching jobs could have been saved if this would have been put off for a year or two? What is more important, teachers or concrete and asphalt? I understand there are traffic problems but does the school really need two accesses onto Kurtz right now? You ask me to vote for a Tech Levy when you go spending money like this; who is going to teach with this technology if you have not teachers? I think it may be time to start looking at getting bids from other local firms to assist in the needs of the schools whether it is for Maintenance, Computers, Master Planning, or Design and Construction.
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