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Whitnall plans small levy hike this time

District will use reserves to lessen anticipated tax impact

Sept. 3, 2013

Greenfield — After no levy increase in last year's budget, the Whitnall School District has proposed a levy increase of 1.88 percent for the current school year.

Taxpayers will get to review the proposed 2013-14 budget and vote on the levy at the district annual meeting Sept. 23.

The proposed levy of $15.8 million would support a budget of nearly $30.8 million.

Ups and downs

Proposed spending is actually a bit less than the $31.3 million budgeted last year, when the district was finishing up a multi-million dollar improvement to the Whitnall High School athletic facilities, said Doug Johnson, district business manager.

Spending in the general fund, regarded as the operating budget, would be up more than 6 percent, mostly due to increases in pay, fringe benefits and transportation, Johnson said. Raises of 2.07 percent were built into the proposed budget, he said.

No programs are being added or reduced, he said, even though state aid will again be down.

"It's going down but not as severely as in the last couple of years," Johnson said.

State aid will probably be down $100,000, he said, but the following year he expects to lose close to $1 million.

Lowered levy

The administration proposed a 4 percent property tax levy hike budget, but the School Board sent it back with instructions to get the levy down to no more than 2 percent.

That pretty much cut out reserves that are normally built into the budget in case the unexpected happens, Johnson said. That strategy worked last year, with the district ending with $15,000 left over, he added.

If something unexpected happens, school officials might have to look for ways to save money, he said.

But all in all, Johnson said, "It's a responsible budget and we're optimistic."

Board President Bernard Shaw said the proposed budget shows the board is attuned to all those affected — from students and parents to taxpayers with no children in the schools.

Holding the administration to a 2 percent increase, he said, "shows the board's fiscal responsibility in keeping costs in line, with keeping a compensation package that attracts very fine talent."

Board member T.J. Anderson called the budget "pretty tight and pretty realistic."

"The budget's a good sound budget that drives education and seriously takes taxpayers into consideration," Anderson said.

And the board has decided not to tax to the maximum state law allows, which some other districts do, he noted.

School Board member Eileen Valaitis said that she didn't support another zero-increase levy because she feared that pay would fall so low that Whitnall would have trouble getting top staff.

On the other hand, Valaitis also said she didn't support the administration's higher budget because the schools don't need that amount of funding yet, noting that other projects, for which the board is currently awaiting estimates, are pending in future years.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Whtinall School District annual meeting

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23 budget hearing; 7 p.m. annual meeting

WHERE: community room of Whitnall High School, 5000 S. 116th St.

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