MISSOULA — While business continues to struggle because of the pandemic, school funding in Missoula is actually stable. At least for now.
The MCPS budgets are being impacted by a variety of factors this year. And while the district did save some money on building and transportation costs during the spring shutdown, other expenses continued.
"What we didn't save anything on was staffing, and that's like 90% of the budget, because we continued to pay our staff and our staff continued to work throughout the remote learning," MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson said. "So, we didn't really save any money on staffing. We are trying to carry forward some of those other savings, bit it's a pretty small percentage of our total budget.
The MCPS Elementary District Budget will hit $63.6 million, an increase of 2.4%, driven primarily by more students and higher transportation costs.
But with a drop in the district's tax values from the 2019 spike after all the new construction, there will be a savings of $7 per year in taxes on a $200,000 home.
The total high school district budget hits $49.4 million, an increase of less than 1% driven by a slight decline in students and levy adjustments. Again, the drop in tax values and the mill rate will save taxpayers $13 a year.
The district's larger financial concern is how the pandemic will impact the fall enrollment reported to the state.
"They took a count in October, and one in February, they averaged that and that's basically how your funding is driven, by those counts," Watson said. "Well, we had kids in school, obviously, those February and October dates. Next year's budgets based on this number of kids. What we could really run into shortfall is in the following year, because the following year will be based on whoever enrolls for next year."
And there's concerns that number could drop if parents make other choices, like home schooling. That's always a moving target, but a larger target now because of the virus.
"We have some students that migrate out of the district and move to other communities, or move to other schools outside of our district and then we have students that migrate in," Watson said. "So we always are playing that enrollment game, you know, in September, trying to decide how many kids we have."
The district spent a portion of its CARES Act money to offset pandemic costs for expenses such as expanded summer school offerings to help students catch up courses after the spring shutdown.