District looks at cuts, levies to cover shortfall

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Budget cuts are on the way for Kalispell Public Schools and general fund levies for the high school and elementary districts may be on the May ballot.

“We have committed to reducing our expenditures by $400,000 on the elementary side and $400,000 on the high-school side,” said Gwyn Andersen, district director of business services.

The goal is that budget cuts combined with levies would cover a $1.5 million budget shortfall and plan for the future as the new Rankin Elementary School is slated to open in 2018 and will add to the district’s operation and maintenance costs.

The recommended cuts were presented to a district finance committee made up of school board trustees on Friday.

“All of the building administrators and the central administrative team have been combing through the budget,” Andersen said.

While teaching jobs aren’t among the recommended cuts, some positions may be reduced through attrition.

“Things are going to be tight,” Andersen said.

Part of the reason for the budget shortfall is a state funding reduction of $687,294 over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. That amount represents about 1.1 percent of the school district’s budgeted funds, which total $62.1 million.

The state funding and block grant reductions impact areas such as data for achievement (used for state testing costs), transportation, special education, at-risk students and career and technical education.

Also factoring into the district’s budget shortfall was a school board decision to use one-time money to cover over-budget expenses rather than seek a levy. This amounted to $1 million from the high school district and $355,000 from the elementary district contained in an interlocal fund.

The drawback to using one-time money is that the budget shortfall remains in the following year.

Levy amounts haven’t been decided yet, but trustees have been looking at the numbers and discussing options over several school board meetings.

The elementary district has looked at what the cost to taxpayers would be in requesting a $1 million or $1.2 million levy. If either amount ends up on the ballot and is approved, the owner of home valued at $200,000 could see a tax increase of either $50.37 or $60.45, respectively.

The high school district is reviewing the impact of three amounts — $1.2 million, $1.4 million and $1.6 million. Owners of homes valued at $200,000 could see a tax increase of either $26.25, $30.62 or $34.99 respectively, if a levy is requested and approved by voters.

Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau will give a presentation on school finances at a Kalispell Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The luncheon will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel. The public is invited to attend the presentation portion of the event at no cost. For more information call 406-758-2803.

The budget will also be the topic of a school board work session scheduled at 6 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Kalispell Middle School library.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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