GFPS estimates district budget will turn up short next year

Posted at 2:01 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 18:35:05-04

GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Public Schools estimates the district will be short about $1 million for the upcoming school year’s budget.

A Friday Budget Committee meeting was just one of many that will be held over the next few months.

All the numbers that were discussed are only preliminary estimates and are still expected to change as school officials get closer to finalizing the budget.

Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Tammy Lacey started the meeting by updating everyone on how the legislation will help the district.

There were a few good things that came out of the legislation that will help GFPS, she said.

“The opportunities lay in the Transformational Learning and Advanced Opportunity Act (CTE),” Lacey said.

But one of the biggest challenges GFPS faces is funding their current preschool program.

Student Services Director Dale Lambert said he has made the preschool budget functional by taking out many luxuries.

“The example is we do field trips. Field trips are nice, but everyone assumes they’re cheap. We roll that bus across town. There is $400 in fuel costs, the driver costs, and other things. So a lot of things we did in the past, we will have to look at, ‘Is this necessary?’ and ‘How can we plan this differently?’” Lambert said.

Their goal is to maintain the number of classrooms and students — with less money.

One option is to eliminate three positions. These employees will not be let go, but they will move into open teaching positions.

“Reduce supply and professional development spending. Again, how would we accomplish all of the other things that would need to happen? We would assign other administrators on a schedule and an as-need basis,” Lacey said.

The other option is to eliminate 2.5 positions, but they will need to hire a part time teacher to help fill the .5 gap.

If they go with the first choice, some money will become carry over and will help sustain programs in 2021.

Another idea that was brought up was making preschool a community type of program, so that it could be community funded.

But when it comes to the GFPS budget as a whole, the estimated shortfalls total $972,454.

Lacey broke down what the numbers might look like for next year’s budget, stressing that these numbers are just an estimate right now.

“We did add in custodial increases for Giant Springs and CMR because of the increased square footage. We knew that would be a cost that we would need to attend to,” Lacey said.

At some point, they will also have to do this with Longfellow Elementary and Great Falls High School.

Some of the ideas at which they looked to make the new budget happen included using $700,000 of the reserves. Cost savings would be $192,000, reducing staff would be $65,000, and revenue would be $15,000.

For staff reductions, Lacey said those decisions will be made up by the inability to recruit for some positions.

They are trying to fill positions in areas like industrial technology and foreign language, specifically German.

Those positions might not be filled.

The revenue would come from increasing athletic fees that have not been increased since 1995.

The next step in finalizing the budget will involve the business department finishing the year-end balance and trustee report.

Reporting by Margaret DeMarco for MTN News