District sees slight increase in draft budget

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The Whitefish School District’s trend of slow increases to its budget looks to continue with a projected $13.8 million total general fund budget for fiscal year 2019.

The budget includes an increase of $483,300 or 3.6 percent over fiscal year 2018, and stems from small legislative increases and higher enrollment at Muldown Elementary School, according to the district.

Staff salaries also contribute to an increase in spending, as 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.

District Business Director Danelle Reisch presented an overview of the budget to the Whitefish School Board during its July 10 meeting. The board is set to vote on the final budget next month.

The preliminary budget calls for additional first- and second-grade teachers at Muldown, a full-time equivalent nurse at Muldown, a music technology teacher, funding for an extracurricular stipend for Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and a contingency for an extra kindergarten through sixth-grade teacher, if necessary.

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

The bulk of the budget increase is in the elementary district, which calls for a general fund budget of $9.3 million, an increase of 5 percent over the previous year. The high school district general fund budget is at $4.4 million, which includes an increase of $20,000 over the previous year.

Voters in May approved an elementary levy of $95,125 to boost general fund operation of the district.

Reisch noted a big increase in the guaranteed tax base reimbursement from the state over last year.

The budget calls for $761,785 in the reimbursement, an increase of $345,000 in the elementary budget and $118,00 for the high school.

“This is the additional money that the state is contributing to the district to offset the loss of school block grant money,” Reisch said. “So you can see that even though we had a voted levy in our elementary district, our taxes are actually still going down. Our tax obligation is still down about 2.4 percent, and that’s because we got that additional boost from the state.“

The budget also includes a 27 percent boost in professional services for the school resource officer program and a 64 percent increase in technological services for the district’s switch to Infinite Campus, a campus-wide school services software system.

Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt said a 34 percent increase in professional development and substitute teacher funds is designed to allow for more teacher training and collaboration

“One of the things we’re looking at is some instructional coaching through a virtual model that would be more personalized directly to the teacher and their interests and specific needs,” she said. “We’re looking at a model where all of our new teachers would receive coaching their first two years.”

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