School district budget to be restructured

By Jeff Smith


At the Dec. 11 school board meeting, superintendent Mike Hanson said there are some challenges budget wise and enrollment wise.

In his presentation on the budget he said there are forces beyond the school district’s control that offer some challenges.

“It’s time to take some recommendations to adjust what we do,” Hanson said.

He didn’t mean for it to be a doom and gloom presentation but thought that there are some things happening he wanted the school board to be aware of.

Hanson highlighted four different areas in his presentation. First was the demographics piece that has been occurring in last 7-10 years. Then he talked about the school district’s fiscal positions as well as the challenges and opportunities.

In the last year there have been 42 students exit the school district. At the last count there were 453 students in the district where last year it was at 499.

School districts receive state aid based on student enrollment. Hill City might have received some state aid if they remained level or slightly above where they were at last year.

Since Hanson has been the superintendent, state aid has just been received once.

The two cornerstones that develop the school district’s structure are student enrollment and the resulting revenue platforms.

The district structure is the supplies, salaries and benefits and all the operating budgets that help move he school forward.

School board board representatives talked to legislators in 2015 to report to them that the new funding formula wasn’t beneficial to the Hill City School district.

A trio of bills in 2016 were enacted in order  to raise teacher pay in the state. One of the changes with the laws was that approximately $36 million in tax relief would be provided for all property taxpayers.

Hanson said the funding formula focused on property tax reduction and new monies would go to certified teacher salaries. The legislature allocated 34 percent of the proceeds of the half-cent sales tax to property tax to generate $36 million in tax relief.

This has had a negative impact on the school district with a loss of  about $326,000 in local tax revenue.

Many funds for the school budget come from local property tax dollars.

The school district is able to utilize flexibility with capital outlay. School districts are allowed to transfer up to 45 percent of their capital outlay dollars to the general fund.

Capital outlay usually covers costs of buildings and improvements. That levy is being maxed out but is also being used in the general fund.

Also, the school district’s impact aid is not increasing at all but Hanson said the congressional delegation is very supportive of impact aid.

“South Dakota is one of the best states for that,” Hanson said.

“We have been using  our reserve funds primarily from our impact aid.”

Unfortunately, the reserve funds will be depleted at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Under current configurations, the 2019-2020 school year is unfundable.

“The reserve funds will be maxed to zero and local revenues, federal revenues are not going to pick up the pace there,” Hanson said.

Salary and benefits structures can’t be funded in the current form.

“Declining enrollment really is one of the significant factors behind that,” Hanson said

The school district will undergo strategic planning for the coming years and Hanson said it is not a crisis. He recommended implementing restructuring activities and efforts prior to the 2018-2019 school year.

“We see it, we can take care of things and continue to have an extraordinary educational experience for our students and a great working environment for our faculty,” Hanson said.

A $7,000 ice machine was approved for purchase that will be placed in between the kitchen and cafeteria. Roxann DuBois, food service director, said it will provide access to teachers or people who work in concessions so people don’t have to walk all the way through the kitchen. Ice is needed for the food aide workers and for transporting food in between the schools.

In other school news, teachers have been preparing for finals at the high school. High school principal Todd Satter said it’s unusual to start finals on a Monday.

A challenge has presented itself since more students are enrolled in dual credit than ever before. Satter said the way the college calendar and the high school calendar works students need to be at two places at once.

“That’s something we may need to address,” Satter said.

“Teachers expect them to attend high school here at Hill City High School and the professors at tech and Western Dakota Tech expect them to start their semester there.”

He said they need to discuss something more and come up with a plan.

This coming semester they will have more students in dual credit courses. Next year they are hoping to have someone from Western Dakota Tech at Hill City High School.

Hanson said they are heading into the next in-service day where there will be training for NWEA MAP for elementary school instructors. At the middle school and high school they will be having someone discuss suicide prevention and appropriate use of technology for faculty as well as students.