School board approves final budget with decrease

by WHITNEY ENGLAND
Reporter | August 19, 2020 1:00 AM

The Whitefish School Board last week unanimously approved the school district budget for the 2020-21 school year.

District Business Director Lucie Shea told the board in the meeting that few changes were made to the proposed budget she presented last month. The general fund budget stayed the same at $15.062 million between the elementary and high school districts, which is a $300,000 decrease from last year.

The biggest difference between the preliminary and final budgets was an increase in the debt service fund, which consists of the money used to pay for the district’s bond debt and special improvement district payments — this account increased from $2.835 million in the preliminary budget to $3.525 million in the final version.

There was also a slight increase in the budget for the technology fund. In the preliminary budget, the technology fund was $486,290 and the new version shows the fund increased up to $492,649.

Shea explained the change saying it’s due to an increase in revenue Whitefish is expected to get from the state.

“Now don’t get too excited,” she told the board. “It’s less than $7,000 between the two funds, but we of course are glad especially in IT these days for every extra dollar we can get.”

Altering the debt service fund and the technology fund were the only changes made from preliminary to the finalized school district budget. Therefore the elementary general fund remains at $10.03 million and the high school general fund comes in at $5.03 million for the 2020-21 school year.

Also discussed in the meeting were the extra funds related to the coronavirus relief and Cares Act funding. Shea explained these dollars granted to the schools are not included in this budget, as they are kept separate and are required to be spent only on coronavirus related expenses.

“The coronavirus funding, which is $250,000 plus an additional about $800,000, comes out of a completely different fund and they’re not out of this official adopted budget,” Shea said in the meeting.

The district is looking at that separate coronavirus related budget daily and what the money will be spent on has not been finalized.

“We’re very grateful that we were on the receiving end of the Cares funds, especially the governor’s funding of the $800,000,” Shea said.

Interim Superintendent Dave Means added that the funds might actually be spent fairly quickly, saying the Cares Act and the coronavirus relief funding from the governor so far is going toward the hiring of additional nurses, paraeducators and custodians, an increase in professional development for teachers, and supplies and materials related to COVID-19.

The district also recently learned it is eligible for additional transportation funding, also related to coronavirus impacts. More details will emerge on that soon, noted Shea.