School policy change creates financial flexibility

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The Whitefish School Board earlier this month approved changes that gives the district more flexibility in how it spends money.

The first was the adoption of a budget amendment introduced in December that allows for the district to use tax increment finance funds from the city of Whitefish to pay for deferred maintenance items.

The amendment brings $570,000 to the elementary general fund and $300,000 to the high school fund to replace money that would otherwise come from the general fund reserves.

“Really this resolution is all about giving us the ability to spend our tax increment dollars from the city,” School District Business Director Danelle Reisch said. “By law we can spend the reserves and we can use that tax increment money to replace those reserves. We’ll only spend what we can replace with the tax increment money. We won’t deplete our reserves.”

Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt, Facility Director Chad Smith and Reisch are expected to meet to create a plan for how the money will be spent.

The board also approved the creation of a multidistrict agreement between the Whitefish Elementary and High School districts.

The agreement allows the district to transfer funds into an inter-local cooperative fund from other budgeted and non-budgeted funds except the retirement fund, the debt service fund, compensated absence liability fund and any funds restricted by federal law.

The agreement passed by a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Marguerite Kaminski voting in opposition.

Reisch said the agreement will help the district allocate money to fund larger-scale projects in the future.

“It’s also a way for the district to blend monies between themselves. For example, because we have a separate elementary and high school district and they’re separate legal entities, doing the multi-district agreement between the two of them gives us the ability to utilize our funds more district wide than for elementary versus high school.”

“One of the things that I’m hoping to do with his multi-district agreement is to utilize it with some of our tax increment funds,” she added. “We have a budget amendment to spend the tax increment funds, and if we don’t spend them all and we have some funds that we don’t need immediately, we will be able to transfer those to our interlocal fund and use them in the future for things like the high school roof replacement. It will give us an opportunity to compile some money to do some bigger projects.”

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