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Whitefish School District budget reflects increased enrollment, inflation of supplies

by WHITNEY ENGLAND
Whitefish Pilot | August 17, 2022 1:00 AM

The Whitefish School Board last week unanimously approved the school district's final budget for the 2022-23 school year.

The budget for the upcoming school year is up by $788,000 from last year making the total district budget about $24.9 million.

The school board approved the preliminary budget figures in mid-July and the district did not make any changes before presenting the final budget on Aug. 9.

The elementary funds make up about $16.9 million while the high school funds are around $7.9 million. The combined elementary and high school general fund is budgeted for $15.6 million.

Whitefish School District Business Director Lucie Shea says the increase in the budget is mostly due to increased enrollment.

“Of all the funds, it is the elementary general fund budget that increased most significantly — by $472,000 or 4.7%,” Shea told the board. “The increase is mainly a result of higher student enrollment, especially at the middle school.”

When talking about the preliminary budget during the July meeting, Shea highlighted the fact that the budget expenditures have increased but the revenue did as well.

“Even though our expenditure budget is going up, so is our revenue budget because we have more funding from the state…” Shea said. “We increased in enrollment and that increase is most evident in the elementary general fund where the budget increased by $472,000 more compared to last year.”

The general fund makes up the majority of budgeted funds and is comprised of several subcategories. The instructional services category makes up over 60% of the general fund in both the elementary and high school districts. This year the instructional services budget line increased fairly significantly due to increases in staff wages. In a previous meeting, the board approved an increase of 3.25% for teacher salaries and a $2 per hour increase for classified staff to help offset the increased cost of living and the higher than normal inflation rate. This was a larger increase than the usual yearly cost of living raise.

Additionally, the district is preparing for the higher inflation of common school supplies such as pencils, paper, notebooks, art supplies and more. Other areas were also budgeted with inflationary increases in mind — utilities, operations, maintenance, student transportation, textbooks, software, and platform subscriptions, just to name a few.

“These budget areas are expected to be between 7 and 15 % higher than last year,” Shea said during both times she presented the fiscal year budget.

“We don’t know which category will go up exactly by how much but all of this is built into the budget as a cushion because we’re already seeing the increases, especially on the supplies end. Every book, every pencil is going up,” she said.

In March, the district decided to not ask taxpayers for a voted levy for the third year in a row, stating that with the increased enrollment the district was prepared to balance the budget without a large levy.

They did add a modest permissive levy to continue increasing funds in the building reserve fund which helps fund building maintenance that arises.

Between both the high school and elementary district, the building reserve fund has about $249,000.

To view the full budget visit the Whitefish School District website or this direct link https://tinyurl.com/wsd44budget

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