Shrinking dollars lead to shrinking staff for the Hill City School District

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HILL CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Education cuts in the Hill City School District have riled a number of residents. And they turned out in force Jan. 8th to share their opinions. Shrinking dollars have now led to a shrinking staff for next school year.

A standing-room-only crowd turned out at the school board meeting to get some answers. According to the superintendent, an enrollment drop of 46 students led to a decrease of $71,000 in state aid, which forced the school board to look at ways to make up the difference.

The board approved the resignation of the Elementary School Principal, effective at the end of the school year. Another administrator will take over those duties. Four district employees: a custodian, a food service worker, a special education aide and one ELS aid, will also lose their positions at the end of this school year.

“I think it was a little bit more quick maneuvering, you know, too business like, you know and like I said this is a small town a lot of that was coming through as rumors through Christmas time. A few people that asked to resign before Christmas, before the Holiday. Right before the Holiday, I thought that you should have more public input in that. Even though they are open session meetings. It was just a strange way to handle something in a small town,” said Howie Euneau, owner of the Silver Dollar Saloon and a parent.

Dr. Mike Hanson, Hill City School District Superintendent, says that the decline in enrollment played a huge factor into these decisions.

“I think there is a lot of transition, absolutely, and so we're taking a look at all of that. I think some families make some choices that they need to, with where they would like to live. And again it's just a difficult time for us in terms of continuing to offer the best, but knowing that we have to be mindful of our budget,” said Dr. Hanson.

The district says they have lost more than $300,000 in property taxes in recent years, and National Forest Service payments have dropped significantly within this past year.