District seeks approval of $92,000 levy in election

by Daniel Mckay
Whitefish Pilot | March 10, 2020 2:29 PM

The Whitefish School District will ask voters in May to approve a $92,425 levy in the elementary district, which will go alongside two permissive levies.

The levy amounts were set during the March 3 Whitefish School Board business meeting.

The voter-approved levy comes in the elementary’s general fund, and is available due to an enrollment increase of 38 students going into the 2020-2021 school year and inflationary increases approved during the 2019 legislative session, District Business Director Lucie Shea said.

“We are allowed, per the state formula, to levy $92,000 in the elementary school. We are maxed out in high school, so we cannot get any levies there,” she said.

The annual impact of the levy increase would be $2.05 for a home with a taxable value of $100,000 and $4.10 for a home valued at $200,000.

The levy would help to offset a shortfall in the elementary district. In total and assuming the levy is passed, the elementary budget comes $260,983 short of the max budget for the district, with the excess of $258,834 in the high school district helping to balance the combined budgets.

“When we look at the overall pictures, we see we end up about $2,000 short. Which is not really anything to worry about,” Shea told the board, noting a more detailed and organized preliminary budget will be coming in the next couple months.

Along with the voter-approved levy, the board also approved a pair of permissive levies, which do not appear on the ballot.

In the tuition fund levy, the board approved a $190,480 increase in the elementary district and a $3,448 increase in the high school. Combined, that works out to an annual impact of $4.55 for a home with a taxable value of $100,000 and $9.10 for a home valued at $200,000.

The total estimated tuition fund levies for 2021 add up to $843,900 in the elementary district and $345,960 in the high school district.

“It just is due to new personnel needs that we have, from speech therapists to special ed teachers, behavioral specialists, more para-educators and our tuition fees we pay to Flathead Crossroads. All those things we were always covering with other funds,” Shea said.

The board also approved building reserve levies at increases of $7,900 in the elementary district and $3,700 in the high school district.

The fund will be more important for building maintenance funding in the future, Shea said, as the city’s payment to the school district from the city tax increment finance fund sunsets this year.

“The building reserve levy is something we’re allowed to levy based on a formula set by the state that’s run by our enrollment. Since our enrollment has been increasing both at the elementary and the high school, we can now levy a little bit more in the building reserve fund, and you know how extremely important this is going to be next year when the TIF money goes away. This is where we’re saving money for building maintenance,” she said. “I know it’s nothing when you think about $1.2 million that we’re losing. We can certainly use the money.”

Three trustee seats on the Whitefish School Board will also appear on the spring ballot, as the terms of Shannon Hanson, Heather Vrentas and Katie Clarke are set to expire.

As of press time, only Hanson has filed for re-election, though the deadline for filing is not until March 26.

The election is May 5.