Hill City School District hurting with less funds

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HILL CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Anger and sadness were the emotions felt at Monday's Hill City School Board meeting. The meeting involved cuts to educators and other employees because of reduced revenue.

"As we have been reviewing budgets for upcoming years. Our current structure and our current level of funding is just unsustainable past '19-'20 that's when our reserve funds that year would run out," said Dr. Mike Hanson, Hill City Superintendent.

The Hill City School District has received state aid only once in seven years. And because of the state's new school funding formula, the district brings in enough money with local property taxes to not qualify for state aid.

"There are a few schools that don't receive it. Most notably here in the Western Hills, Lead, Deadwood School District, doesn't receive state aid. The new school funding formula with the property tax reduction piece drastically reduced the levies, which used to produce more local revenue for our district. So, under the new funding formula we lost roughly $250,000 in revenues. And that put significant strain in our operational piece," said Dr. Hanson.

Federal aid has also continued to dwindle. Hill City received funding through the Secure Rural School Act until 2015. But, that money is not available, costing the district and additional $100,000.

"Secure Rural School Act and also timber receipts were one of our major industries is timber, along with tourism. And so timber receipts play a significant role. In the past it had provided us hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. And now we're down to about $119,000, so losing that Secure Rural School Act component, which came from the federal government, that hurt us quite a bit," said Dr. Hanson.

This has put school administrators in a tight spot. A teacher who wished to remain anonymous told KOTA Territory that recent cuts were handled improperly and that an employee was forced to resign.

"We take it very seriously and it's hard, it's very hard to do. But, it has produced the ability for us to sustain strong educational and co-curricular activities into the future and while we project 3-5 years out we do also take a look from year to year. So, reductions as difficult as they may be do enhance our ability to offer wonderful programming, but at a different scale to match resources we have," said Dr. Hanson.

Hanson says that their main focus is doing the best for the students.