Kalispell trustees OK $48.8 million school budget

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Kalispell Public Schools will operate with a $48.8 million budget in 2010-11, after a unanimous vote Tuesday by school board.

Trustees approved a nearly $21.6 million elementary budget and a $27.3 million budget for the high school district. The budget increased by less than 1 percent from 2009-10.

To balance the budget, school officials had to chip away at an $819,000 shortfall. The district had hoped taxpayers would help with the $603,000 elementary district deficit, but voters rejected a $338,000 levy request in May.

School officials trimmed about $503,000 from the elementary budget. The heaviest cuts came in the operations and maintenance budget, which lost about $127,000. In addition to cuts, the district used $100,000 of program retention money, a rainy-day account Kalispell schools set aside years ago.

The high school district used a little over $81,000 in program retention funds to balance its $216,000 shortfall. Like the elementary district, the biggest cuts came in operations and maintenance, which was reduced by more than $47,000.

Building principals in both districts and central office administrators agreed not to take pay raises, which saved about $36,000. Some administrators will receive more money next year, but those are contractual agreements that were factored into the budget projections.

Few layoffs were needed to balance the budget.

District clerk Todd Watkins said the new $26 billion jobs bill President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday wouldn’t have much impact on Kalispell schools in 2010-11. Many Montana school districts, including Kalispell, need the money more in 2011-12.

The legislation provides $10 billion for school districts to rehire laid-off teachers or ensure more teachers won’t be let go before the new school year begins. According to U.S. Department of Education estimates, the money could help schools retain more than 160,000 teachers.

About 700 of those jobs are in Montana, according to an Education Department analysis. The state’s projected allocation from the jobs bill is about $31 million.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday his department would streamline the application process to get money to school districts quickly.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Reporter Kristi Albertson may be reached at 758-4438 or at kalbertson@dailyinterlake.com.

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