Salaries drive increases in school budget

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The Whitefish School District 2017-18 general fund preliminary budget calls for an increase of just under $520,000, which continues a several-years trend of increases.

This year’s $13 million general fund budget is proposed with a 4 percent increase over last fiscal year’s budget.

District Clerk Danelle Reisch said a few factors continue to bring the budget up year after year.

“Yes, it has been increasing dramatically,” she said at the July 11 School Board meeting. “Part of it is enrollment, part of it is just that the cost of education is going up, including our staffing costs. Obviously that’s the biggest part of our budget.”

The general fund is the chief operating fund of the school district and 89 percent of the funds goes toward salaries and benefits for district staff.

The budget figures in an increase in salary for both certified and classified staff.

The base salary for teachers is set to increase by a half percent along with increases for longevity and administrative staff will see an equivalent increase. While the salary for classified salaries is set to increase by 55 cents per hour.

The bulk of the budget increase is in the elementary district, which calls for a general fund budget of $8.9 million, an increase of 6 percent over the previous year.

The high school district general fund budget is at $4.4 million, which includes an increase of just $1,500 over the previous year.

Reisch presented an overview of the budget to the School Board, which will vote on the final budget next month.

Included in the budget is $30,000 to cover consistent overspending in the extra curricular budget at the high school over the last several years, Reisch noted.

“We either need to eliminate programs or fund what we have,” she said. “Even if we increase them and had each student pay $100 more, that’s still only going to generate $3,000 to $5,000. And in my mind that puts a burden on people who don’t have the ability to pay, having to make those choices.”

The budget also figures in additional funding for a part-time nurse at the high school, world language courses at the middle school and funding for more custodial services at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center to compensate for district use of the facility.

“In addition to paying the utilities on the building, we needed to make some additional contributions for the maintenance of that facility,” Reisch said.

An additional sixth grade teacher and a full-time assistant principal position are also both included for the middle school. Jackie Fuller, who is moving from the high school to the assistant principal job at the middle school, will replace the position of Dean of Students at the middle school.

A contingency for an additional K-6 teacher is also included in the budget. Reisch and Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt said the most likely spot for that additional teacher will be at in the fifth grade.

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