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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

School Superintendents Worry About The Loss Of Transportation Funds

School bus in Colstrip, MT.
Amy Martin
School bus in Colstrip, MT.

The transportation block grants Montana pays to school districts are one of the sources Governor Steve Bullock is looking at to help fill Montana’s budget shortfall. Eliminating those grants in 2019 would save the state nearly $12 million.

But not all school districts have a reserve fund to fall back on. Some that do can’t sustain the loss over an extended period of time.

Scott Carter is a superintendent in Shepard.

"We are a large geographic district. We run our busses on all types of dirt roads: snowy, icy, muddy. We can do it for a year, but long term it would cause us to reevaluate our transportation plan."

Carter says the block grant brought in about $12,000 this year. While the Shepherd School District has money in their reserves to cover the grant’s loss for about a year, the town of Laurel is in a more difficult situation.

Superintendent Linda Filpula says her district doesn’t have any money reserved to cover the grant’s loss.

"In Laurel, with protested taxes, in order to access them you have to deplete your reserves. So we really don’t have the option of relying on those reserves."

She says they’ll see what the impacts are at the end of the session and make the adjustments accordingly.

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