Montana Schools Take $19 Million Hit With Shortfall – Superintendent Uninvited To Budget Meeting
At noon on Tuesday, Governor Steve Bullock's office released the anticipated revenue numbers for the next biennium and the total fell $75 million short of what was needed to fund state government.
Among the cuts was $19 million from Montana's Public Schools budget. Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said she asked to attend the meeting that Revenue Director Dan Villa had with reporters, but was then uninvited.
"We heard that this was going to take place at noon, so we called and asked if we could come, and they said yes, but then we got an email saying the meeting was for media only," Arntzen said."That isn't good government. All that aside, I can tell you that on August 25th we're going to be making payments of $60 million to schools. But we are removing Data For Achievement, which was a hit of $3 million."
In all, Arntzen said public school funding will be cut by $19 million. However, she said some of that money will be made up through increased property taxes in Montana communities.
"There is some tax shifting that will be going on with these cuts," she said. "That means property taxes in November are going to go up. I applaud school districts like Missoula where their voters said yes to building and remodeling schools. But now these tax shifts are going to occur, and so when people get their property tax bills in November, it's going to be very interesting to see what their reactions will be."
Spokesman for the Board of Regents, Kevin McRae said the cuts for higher education will be spread throughout the entire university system.
"The first impact is a .5 percent budget reduction, which, for the University of Montana translates into a reduction of $260,000," McRae said. "The second reduction is the funding of the state employee pay plan which will effectively remove a one percent increase in pay for the first year of the biennium, so any funding available at all would be paid in the second year."
Some of the agencies hardest hit by the budget triggers are health and human services and Medicaid.