Whitehall school budget up, no tax hike

Whitehall school budget up, no tax hike

Whitehall schools will be receiving a $723,000 increase in budget for the coming school year.

School business manager Kate Dubois gave a budget update at the April meeting of the Board of Education with details on how the funds will be spent and how it will be giving back to students.

“We’ve come in with a 4.3 budget-to-budget increase which is just over $723,000, sounds like quite a bit of money,” she said. “However, 47% of that increase, $341,000, is new debt coming on to the schedule and we will be getting building aid to help out that debt increase.”
Dubois said that with the $341,000 going towards building debt, there is still plenty of funds to be used for the betterment of education materials for students. The district will also be introducing a new position to help with the virtual side of education.

“A new position included in the budget proposal, coordinator of instructional technology, will facilitate the process, working on and enhancing our overall program, making recommendations regarding curriculum and tools, providing training and support to staff, and continuing to build on the great work that has already been achieved,” she said.

Along with the new position, the budget will help with updating equipment for the district.

“We have added a library support BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) program that will provide additional resources and tools for our faculty to use in delivering instruction,” she said.  “The budget also includes funds for the purchase of several much-needed equipment items to help with maintaining our facilities.  These include a new floor cleaning machine, a pickup truck with plow to replace a 2010 pickup that does not have plowing or towing capabilities, and a baggerand tractor to maintain our athletic fields, including the brand-new football field.  All of this is being done without raising taxes.”

In the past, the district has had a large range of budget increases. For the 2020-2021 school year, the district received $189,426. However, back in the 2014-2015 school year the district received an increase of $1.03 million. Dubois mentioned that the size of the increase depends on a multitude of reasons.

“There are many items that factor into budget increases, including contractual obligations, new state mandates that are either unfunded or under-funded, new initiatives, and changes in funding streams such as state or federal aid that require adjustments to programs,” she said. For the first time in many years, due to the large growth in state and federal funding, schools have an opportunity to make great improvements both programmatically and to the infrastructure in the district.”

Dubois highlighted that most of the funds are coming from state aid. However, the district is still waiting for further clarification on how they can be used and how they will be received. According to initial indications, Dubois said that the district will be required to consult with parents, students and faculty to develop a plan. Also, because of the COVID-19 response packages, that was also included in the increased budget. Dubois explained in detail where the funds have come from.

“The main funding source for the annual budget is state aid, which is projected to increase by 5.72%. As you know, the federal government has approved two COVID relief packages, and there is a substantial amount of federal money allocated to Whitehall for use over the next several years.

“These funds include approximately $985,000 in CRRSA (Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations), $2.85 million in ESSER (Elementary & Secondary School Relief), and $813,000 in a Learning Loss Grant… This is all tentative information.  We will share additional information as it is received and processed,” she said.