At the White Pine County School District Board of Trustees meeting April 19, several teachers and students gave presentations, but the board ended up tabling their vote on this fiscal year’s tentative budget.
Sophomore Maryn Van Tassel opened the meeting with a rendition of the national anthem to a standing-room only crowd packed into the White Pine High School library.
The board recognized the White Pine High girls’ basketball team for their 2nd consecutive state championship, presenting Coach Krystal Smith and each player with a certificate.
Math teacher Jeffrey Cramer won the teacher of the month award, and several teachers and their students gave presentations detailing their progress toward the district’s college and career readiness goals.
“There are amazing things going on in the district,” White Pine High School principal Adam Young said. “Despite the challenges.”
Students complimented their instructors including math teacher Cathy Cracraft, English teacher Kelly Sturgeon, history teacher Rebecca Bath and science teacher Gina Gray.
One high school student described her progress in language arts and writing.
“In college, we’re going to be writing lots of different essays at a time,” she said.
Gray explained that her students chose to study forensic science and wildlife ecology, so she had roadkill brought to campus so they could study decomposition up close, including the the life cycle of the attendant horde of flies.
“It’s been a good year,” said Bret Hermansen, auto shop teacher, as he fought back tears over the looming elimination of his program.
The board then moved on to its business concerning the budget.
“We don’t want to declare a severe financial emergency,” district chief financial officer Paul Johnson said. “It’s not a mismanagement of funds, it’s inadequate funds.”
“We have to make bad decisions and hope that we can start putting things back together,” board chair Lori Hunt said.
“Why wouldn’t we build a budget around negotiated benefits that affects staff instead of students?” asked board member Mary Kerner, drawing applause from the audience.
“It would be a violation of state law governing collective bargaining,” Johnson said. “It might be a year before that gets figured out. The primary reason we wouldn’t want to do that is because it’s mandated and required by law. The collective bargaining units took a two percent pay cut. The labor groups have cooperated with us and helped through pay cuts and health insurance premiums.”
There would also be at least a 30-day notice period before new negotiations could commence.
“I can’t vote for this,” Kerner said. “There’s no bridge funding. There is no money and no help until the next legislative session. We need to be looking at affecting adults and not the students.”
“All timelines and negotiations are regulated by state law,” Hunt said. “We can only vote on what we know. The timeline is just miserable. We have to make decisions before we know what we’re dealing with.”
“It’s all changeable before the final budget is due on June 8,” Johnson said. “And if we find different information after June 8, we can modify it.”
The board is not technically required to adopt until a final budget until June 8, and no board member motioned to approve the tentative budgets cuts as presented.
The board will have a mandatory tentative public budget hearing May 18.