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Heart Butte School votes to eliminate 30 positions

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Posted at 8:36 AM, Jan 10, 2024

HEART BUTTE — One by one, Heart Butte residents and school staff members pleaded with the school board to do what they can to keep the school open and save their jobs during a board meeting Tuesday night.

A business consultant briefed the crowd on the financial straits the district is in which the board says was a result of misuse of credit cards in the amount of $300,000 and accrued debt of nearly $1.5 million due to mishandling of payroll taxes and retirement benefits.

“So, we still, at the end of January, with that savings are expected to be $135,000 in the hole,” said Jenine Synness of Synness Consulting in Billings. “We're still, at the end of February, expected to be $343,000 in the hole.”

What next for laid-off Heart Butte school employees

Synness told the crowd that substantial savings could be realized from cutting the 30 non- essential positions. “We expect to save about $63,000 a month.”

As part of the cost-cutting measures, the board voted to eliminate the 30 support staff positions.

State superintendent Elsie Arntzen was in attendance and told the board they should work with her office to look for additional impact funding.

“They are very, very flexible,” said Arntzen. “Even though the federal government tells us as a state that they to be used for certain things. They can be used for salaries, they can be used for certain mental health programs.”

Principal and students react to Heart Butte school lay-offs

The whole situation has taken a toll on the community, including principal Sandi Campbell who submitted her resignation last week effective January 19.

“When administrative decisions are brought forth to the board and nobody even comes to you as the admin and asks for your input, but I'm just having to deal with everything and the ripples are rippling back to me to have to solve. There's nothing else more to solve. I can't find solutions,” said Campbell.