Lake Washington School District Will Not Cut Next Year’s Budget

More local levy dollars will fill in for state cuts

While the final state budget, adopted yesterday, includes cuts to state funding of K-12 education, Lake Washington School District has analyzed the impact to its budget and determined that expected cuts will not be needed for the 2010-2011 school year. The legislature’s local levy authority package as enacted will allow the district to collect enough in local levy dollars to make up for those state cuts. Because the budget will be flat for next year, the district will not hold budget input meetings this spring.

“We’ve gotten a reprieve,” noted Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent. “I’m relieved that cuts ended up being less than anticipated in the proposed budget packages. However, I’m concerned about the state’s increasing reliance on local taxpayers to pay for what the state should provide, and am concerned about the loss of federal stimulus dollars in another year.”

Total cuts to the Lake Washington budget amount to a $3.5 million reduction in state funding. The largest amount comes in the elimination of voter-approved I-728 student achievement funds. Three-quarters of those dollars were cut last year: the remaining $2.3 million fell in this year’s state budget. Another significant cut comes by reducing fourth grade K-4 class size enhancement dollars, for a total of about $900,000. The last state-funded Professional Development day for teachers was also cut, at $455,000. The state did increase district funding for some general costs, adding about $275,000 to the Lake Washington allocation for non-employee related costs such as utilities and fuel.

On the other hand, the state legislature passed a local levy package that enables the district to collect more revenue by protecting the base amount on which levy collection is calculated and increasing the percent of that base it can collect by four percent. As a result, Lake Washington now has the state authority to collect 28.89 percent of a certain package of state and federal revenues through its Educational Programs and Operations levy.

“Determining what to ask voters for in a levy measure is a difficult balance,” noted Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard. “We have to predict for four years the district’s needs, local enrollment growth, state funding and federal funding. For the February election, we based our EP&O levy proposal on the growth we saw in the levy base over the last four years. With the state legislature’s change in the levy lid, we will be able to collect about 26.7 percent of the base in 2011.”

The district does not anticipate going to voters to ask for an increase in levy authority for 2011 to allow it to collect the full 28.89 percent now allowed by law.

The district will collect about $4.5 million more in the 2010-11 school year based on the levy authority authorized in February’s election. That increased local levy revenue will restore the $3.5 million in state revenues lost plus a reduction in federal Title I dollars of about $800,000. The result is a flat budget for next year.

“While we can rest easier for next year,” noted Dr. Kimball, “We still have to anticipate what will happen in 2011. The federal stimulus dollars now going both to the state to fund education and to our district directly are scheduled to end. We will continue to use our dollars carefully since the loss of significant amounts of stimulus dollars is just a year away. If the state economy does not pick up enough to make up for that loss, we could face another round of cuts for 2011-2012 and beyond.”