In August, Westmoreland Savage Mining LLC donated $26,000 to Savage Public Schools as a sort of final act to the school since the mine is closing.
The donation helped the district get prepared and purchase equipment and supplies to clean and sanitize the schools as the year started up, but the mine closing means a lot more for the district’s future.
Martha Potter, the superintendent for Savage Public Schools, said over the past 10 years, the district received about $125,000 each year in funding from the coal gross proceeds tax. As the mine closes, though, that funding will not be available anymore.
The Sidney Herald talked with Potter and other school staff to see how the district is planning to receive funding from other sources.
Q: What are some grants or other things that the district is looking at to get some of that revenue that will be lost from the mine?
A: There is an MDU (Montana-Dakota Utilities) grant, but there is some preliminary work we have to take care of to get funded. The county commissioners have also sent some information, and they’ve also let us know that we can work with their grant person, Leslie Messer, and so the county has been very very helpful. MDU of course has sent out what we can ask for.
Q: With the mine closing, how is that currently affecting the district?
A: As far as money we get from the coal, it has gone down because they’re not producing quite as much as they had been, and so we don’t get as much of that and we’ll get some until they close. We’ll get small, small increments, but that isn’t enough to fund a school. We always get what we’re entitled to, but we won’t get it at the rate we did. And after it closes, we won’t get the coal gross proceeds in that capacity because coal gross proceeds are different than the taxable value property tax.
Q: Has the school received any of the coal gross proceeds tax yet this year?
A: We have not received anything yet this year, so that means from July 1 until now we haven’t, but we should get some at the end of November. We budgeted $50,000 and $45,000 last year, but we haven’t budgeted as much this year because we probably won’t get it.
The school district receives two payments from the coal gross proceeds tax each school year, once before the turn of the calendar year and once at the end of the school year.
On top of the coal gross proceeds tax, the school district also receives the property tax from the mine, so as long as there is some work going on at the mine, the district will get some money. But once the mine is completely closed, the property tax won’t come in either.
The district is still looking at grants and other means of getting revenue that is being and will be lost as less and less money comes from the mine.