Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | February 17, 2023

Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,

I want to lead this week’s letter with an update on critical work that is taking place around the district’s five-year budget forecast.

As I’ve shared previously, Helena Public Schools, like other AA districts across the state, is facing a significant shortfall in its General Fund Budget. This is the account that pays for our schools’ day-to-day operations, including staff salaries and benefits.

A five-year budget projection originally developed and presented to the district in 2019 outlined the coming funding gap, which starts in the 2023-24 school year. In anticipation of the shortfall, the district made several adjustments, including offering early retirement incentives and directing any savings over the past three years to an Interlocal (savings) fund. Meanwhile, the significant influx of ESSER funding (federal COVID relief) in 2020 created a temporary budget reprieve as we dealt with the challenges of the pandemic.

Although the shortfall is now just around the corner, the savings we set aside are helping us to take the time we need to make sound decisions. At this week’s Board of Trustees meeting, I laid out a two-year plan to have our General Fund balanced by the end of the 2024-2025 school year. In addition, the Board of Trustees called for an annual regular election on May 2 to include an elementary district mill levy. While the mill levy wouldn’t close the budget gap, it would help lessen the impacts. A dollar figure for the request will be set later this spring, pending finalization of enrollment counts and other budgetary information.

School funding is inherently complex, given multiple funding sources as well as the guardrails built in to protect you, the taxpayer. Our “Citizens Guide to the Helena Public Schools Budget” is a great resource for getting familiar with school finance. One key question it answers is why we can’t transfer funds from areas such as transportation, facilities or technology to help close the shortfall in the General Fund. This is not possible because funding for those needs is required to go into separate accounts, with the dollars earmarked for their intended purposes.

Another common question is how our public schools arrived at this shortfall. Volumes have been written on the subject, but some of the biggest causes are federal funding that has not kept up with federal requirements for schools; inflation; rising labor and health care costs, and the fact that it takes more resources to educate a child than it once did. Looking at technology alone, the resources required to prepare a child to succeed in today’s digitized world have grown dramatically over the past decade.

The work ahead won’t be easy, but it is necessary. Our overarching goal is to make the needed budgetary changes with the least-possible impact to your students, whose continued learning and growth is our top priority.

To that end, we’re seeking your input and ideas about addressing the shortfall. Please visit this survey link before Tuesday, February 28, at 5 p.m. to share your input, recommendations and questions.

I will continue to keep you informed in the coming weeks and months as we work to establish a healthy financial future for Helena Public Schools.

The annual regular election called for by Trustees this week will also include renewal of the district’s existing Building Reserve Levy.

Last renewed by voters in 2013, the 10-year Building Reserve Levy is the sole source of funding for care and operation of school facilities and can be spent only on school facilities and upkeep such as safety and security; roofing; ventilation; heating and air conditioning; clean drinking water; electrical, grounds improvement and maintenance. The district uses these funds for the ongoing operation of every school facility in every neighborhood.

Renewal of this levy would cost the owner of a $300,000 home approximately $6.70 a month and would allow for ongoing care and maintenance of our community’s investment in its school facilities.

As we address the business that is critical to our district’s future, we must not lose sight of the reason it matters. That means celebrating our student successes, and this week we’ve had a remarkable run of state titles in sports, music, speech and debate, and more. The achievements below speak to the excellence of our students and staff and the breadth of programs Helena Public Schools is able to offer our community’s children.

Finally, a reminder that there is no school on Monday as we head into the three-day President’s Day Weekend. Please join us tonight to cheer on your Bengal or Bruin girls as they face off in their second Crosstown game of the season at 7 p.m. tonight at Capital High. The boys play at Capital tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.

Enjoy the long weekend!


Signature: Rex. M. Weltz


Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools


Student & Educator Recognitions

Freshman makes Helena sports history

Capital High Freshman Taylor Lay became Helena’s first State Champion in Girls Wrestling, winning the 120-pound weight class at the State Tournament in Billings! Taylor is a true trailblazer and a role model for her peers across all areas of sports and academics. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of her high school wrestling career. Congratulations and thank you, Taylor, for going to the mat for the Bruins! Read her story in the Independent Record.

State swim champs!
At the State Swim Meet in Great Falls last weekend, Helena High Junior Garrett Krattiger won the 500 Free and the 100 Backstroke, while fellow Bengal, Junior Devin Goetsch, was the state champ in the 200 IM. Well done, Garrett and Devin! Swim team is an intense commitment with a rigorous training regimen and your hard-won victories are appreciated.

United Soccer Coaches MT Player of the Year
Capital High Junior Trey Moseman has been named the Montana High School Boys’ Soccer Player of the year by the United Soccer Coaches. Founded in 1941 and based in Kansas City, Mo., United Soccer Coaches has grown into the world’s largest soccer coaches’ organization that serves members at every level of the game. Each year, the organization selects a player of the year in each state. Congratulations, Trey!

Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras
The following student musicians received honors at the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestra’s biannual Young Artist Competition, which recognizes some of Montana’s most talented young musicians:

Charlie Snellman, Capital High, First Place Senior Division

Elliot Cleary, Helena Middle School, Honorable Mention Junior Division
Hollis Elliott, Capital High, Honorable Mention Senior Division
Maren Elliot, Capital High, Runner Up Senior Division

While each of these young musicians is highly talented, their performances were the result of hours upon hours of practice – the hallmark of successful artists. Congratulations!

DECA State Conference
At the DECA State Career Development Conference at Fairmont Hot Springs last week, the following students took top titles and qualified for the DECA International Career Development Conference in Orlando, Florida, in April, where they will join more than 20,000 students and business professionals to develop college and career readiness skills.

First Place, Sales Project Event
CHS: Carlee Foster, Madi Hermes, Kevin Lachere

National Qualifiers, Integrated Marketing Campaign
CHS: Kate Berg, Addy Perschon, Vienna Teders

Individual Series in Accounting Applications, Sixth Place
CHS: Tycen Mooney

Community Awareness Project
HHS: Aysia Phattavong, National Qualifier

Elevate Academy
CHS: Kynz Belcher

Ignite Academy
HHS: Caitlyn Holgate, Luka Krivokapic

School-Based Enterprise Academy
HHS: Melaina Kloberdanz, Sandra Schuele

In addition, the Helena High Caddy Shack food bar once again achieved a Gold Certification! Thank you to DECA Advisors Jessica Frazier (HHS) and Levi Dawes (CHS) for helping our students lay the foundations for college and career success!

A reminder that DECA’s annual funding event “A Night to Shine” is Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m., at the Helena Civic Center. Students will showcase their talents in 20 different acts. All proceeds will help students attend state and national DECA events. Tickets for box seating and general admission can be purchased through the Helena Civic Center Box Office. Special student/staff general admission tickets are on sale at Capital High and Helena High during lunch next week for $10.

Speech & Debate National Qualifier
Helena High Sophomore Layla Riggs qualified for nationals in the Congressional Debate category at the Speech & Debate Qualifier in Missoula, while Capital High Head Speech and Debate Coach John “Dubbz” McClintic was named the Montana West National Speech and Debate Association “Coach of the Year.” Congratulations, Layla, and thank you, Coach McClintic, for making these tremendous opportunities possible for Layla and her peers!

Lewis & Clark Spelling Bee
A huge congratulations to our two top finishers in the Lewis & Clark Spelling Bee on Wednesday, both of Helena Middle School!

Eighth-grader Timothy Cline clinched first place with the correct spelling of “genealogical,” while seventh-grader Maizy Parrett took third place with “marionette.” Way to go Timothy and Maizy! Timothy will represent Lewis & Clark County at the Treasure State Spelling Bee at Montana State University on March 11 and Parrett will be an alternate. See highlights of the bee in the Independent Record.