Whitefish approves budget reflecting increased enrollment

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The Whitefish School Board last week passed a $21.7 million budget for fiscal year 2019.

The budget is a $483,334 or 15 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. The increase is primarily as a result of changes in state legislation and increased elementary enrollment. The board voted unanimously to approve the budget.

In the elementary district, the total general fund revenue budget increased about $462,000 over last year’s adopted budget or about a 5 percent increase. This year’s adopted budget is $9.3 million for the elementary district.

A large chunk of that increase comes from a $623,000 guaranteed tax base reimbursement from the state, which is intended to help make up for the loss of block grants due to legislation last year, according to the district. That reimbursement constitutes more than half of the total revenue fund increase.

Teacher salaries at Muldown Elementary and Whitefish Middle School make up about 45 percent of the total budget for the elementary district, with funding for additional first- and second-grade teachers, according to District Business Director Danelle Reisch. Professional development for Muldown and WMS staff also saw a 60 percent increase in spending over last year.

The high school district’s general fund revenue budget saw just a $20,000 increase over last year’s total. This year’s adopted budget for the high school district totals $4.4 million.

The district saw slight decreases in funding from real estate and personal property taxes as a result of lowered guaranteed tax reimbursement legislation from last year’s session.

The budget did get a boost in guaranteed tax base reimbursement from the state this year, however, with a $113,243 increase.

Instruction across the entire school district makes up 63 percent of the total general fund budget, Reisch told the board, and combined with other categories brings the vast majority of spending focusing on students.

“Almost 75 percent of our budget is spent on direct student services,” she said.

Staff salaries across the district also contribute to an increase in spending. The Whitefish Education Association negotiated a 1.38 percent salary increase plus a district health insurance contribution of $25 a month. The Whitefish Classified Employees Association also negotiated a 60 cent per hour raise.

The transportation fund, which covers travel to and from school, but not extracurricular travel, grew slightly to $265,900.

Likewise, the tuition fund received a negligible bump of $960.

The district’s adult education and technology funds saw slight decreases over last year, continuing downward trends for both.

The adult education fund comes to $206,000 this year, down about $20,000 from fiscal year 2018. The technology fund also saw a drop of about $28,000 in its budget.

The elementary district’s debt service fund, which is used to budget and pay for a district’s bond debt, saw a large increase in this budget as a result of the passage of the $26.5 million bond request to construct a new Muldown Elementary School building.

The debt service fund in the elementary district jumped from $630,000 last year to $2.6 million this year.

“Our voters approved a $26.5 million levy and that’s what it looks like. So that went up substantially,” Reisch said.

Both districts increased their building reserve fund over last year, bringing the total between both districts to about $424,000.

The building reserve fund accumulates funding for the future construction and equipping of school buildings on the authority of a permissive levy, which the district passed last year.

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