Whitnall levy won't increase under proposed school package

Sept. 25, 2012

Greenfield - Residents at the Whitnall School District annual meeting on Monday approved a $15.5 million zero-increase property tax levy for the current 2012-13 school year.

The School Board consciously decided to keep the levy at zero to provide property tax relief to district residents, said Douglas Johnson, business manager.

Total proposed spending this year will be nearly $30.3 million, significantly down from last year's $49 million - a number that was extraordinarily high because the schools were paying off much of their debt.

The 2012-13 operating budget is $23.7 million.

Staffing costs

The number of teachers and aides wouldn't be reduced under the proposed budget and class sizes remain about the same as last year.

Raises of 2 percent were built into the budget, but actual raises will have to be negotiated. Last year, employees got pay raises of 1.5 percent.

Health insurance costs have not gone up, so premiums will be the same as last year. That was achieved by making small changes in the policy, such as drug co-pays increasing about $5. But deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket costs remain the same.

Smaller balance

Paying off the big chunk of debt dropped the district's fund balance from $10.9 million in 2010-11 to an expected $5.9 million (pending final accounting numbers) at the end of last year.

Doug Johnson, business manager, said the new fund balance is still more than 22 percent of the district's operating budget, close to 25 percent level the School Board wants and well above the administrative policy level of 15 percent.

Johnson should find out in mid-October whether the $5.9 million will be enough to enable the district to avoid short-term borrowing to keep the schools running until taxes come in January. Many other school districts have to short-term borrow, but that was never an issue for Whitnall with its larger $10.9 million fund balance.

- Jane Ford-Stewart

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