Bismarck and Mandan school boards have approved preliminary budgets that include additional positions and salary increases for teachers, staff and administrators.

The Bismarck School Board approved a 2019-20 preliminary budget that totals $177.4 million, which is about a $6.8 million increase from 2018-19.

The increase is due to adding 28.25 full-time equivalent positions, as well as increases in salary and health care costs, according to Darin Scherr, district business and operations manager. The budget provides for a 2.25% increase in wages for teachers, staff and administrators.

Roughly $1.9 million is budgeted for the additional positions, which will be placed throughout the district. The school board in April agreed to add these positions in an attempt to "rightsize" crowded classrooms.

The preliminary budget calls for an increase of 3.29 mills, which would increase property taxes by roughly $30 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home. A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for Sept. 6, after which the board will vote on final approval.

At a special meeting Tuesday, school board members spoke favorably of the proposed budget. Superintendent Jason Hornbacher presented a budget proposal to the board last month that called for an increase of 5 mills.

"Now we're at just under 3.3 mills, which is pretty tolerable for our budget," Board Member Karl Lembke said.

Hornbacher commended the board and district officials for their work on the budget, including budgeting for additional positions. They're expected to help address some of the issues facing the district, including classroom safety, bullying and mental health concerns. Last year, the school board earmarked $1.4 million in one-time funding for school safety and mental health supports, which included adding new positions, as well.

"One of the major issues on the community's mind right now is student, staff and school safety, and we are addressing that full-force this year," Hornbacher said, adding they are still trying to fill some of these positions.

Mandan budgets for additional positions

The Mandan School Board approved a $48.9 million budget earlier this week, which is a $2.4 million increase from the previous year.

Business Manager Ryan Lagasse said the increase is almost all going toward salary increases for teachers, staff and administrators, along with 10 new positions this year. Teachers received a 2.8% salary increase over the next two years, and administrators and staff also got an increase at roughly that same amount.

Both Mandan and Bismarck received additional state aid this year, which is a result of lawmakers boosting the per-pupil payment, which is funding awarded to districts for each enrolled student. The per-pupil payment was increased by 2% for each year of the 2019-21 biennium.

Mandan's preliminary budget does not call for an increase in property taxes this year, which Superintendent Mike Bitz attributed to the increase in state aid. A budget hearing is set for Sept. 16. The school board will vote to finalize the budget after that.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)