Lake Washington School District Seeks Comment on Budget Proposed for 2010-11

No major changes from last year

At the June 21 Board of Directors meeting, Barbara Posthumus, coordinator of business services, presented the draft budget for the Lake Washington School District for the next school year. Characterized as a “no cuts, no adds” budget, there were no major changes in programs funded for next year. However, the district would like to hear from parents and community members.

The draft budget has been posted on the school district’s website at www.lwsd.org since late June. Public comment on the draft budget is invited: community members can e-mail publiccomment@lwsd.org or write to the district at P.O. Box 97039, Redmond, WA 98073-9739. The board of directors will hold a public hearing on the budget at its August 9 meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. at the district’s Resource Center, 16250 NE 74thSt., Redmond. Public comments will also be welcomed at that meeting.

A total of 342 more students enrolled in the district in 2009-10 than expected. The proposed budget for 2010-11 accounts for that increase and an additional 89 students expected, for a total of 431 more than last year’s budget planning. Since basic education funding from the state is provided on formula based on the number of students, the district’s revenue will increase accordingly. A 12% increase in the number of students in the special education program also triggered some additional funds to help pay for those services, although these services are not fully funded by the state.

The state legislature changed the formula that limits how much money the district can raise through local levy dollars. With this temporary higher levy cap and the amounts approved by voters in last February’s election, the district will be able to collect more in local levy dollars next year, for an increase of about $4.5 million. This increase will off-set state cuts to education as a result of the struggling economy. State funding increases include more money to cover non-salary costs and revenue to cover increases in employee health benefit costs.

Increases in local levy and state general funding make up for decreases in I-728 academic achievement money passed by voters in 2000, class size reduction funding and teacher preparation day funding that were part of the state budget cuts approved by the legislature.

With regard to federal dollars, funding through the federal stimulus package and through the Title I program for low-income students will be lower next year. The federal Safe & Drug Free Schools grant was eliminated as was state prevention/intervention funding. Increased enrollment also increases expenditures as more teachers are needed. An increase in special education needs also causes an increase in special education expenditures. Some fixed costs are also rising.

“Last year we spent a little less than we had in revenue, planning ahead for this year’s lower level of federal stimulus funding,” noted Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard.  “This year, our expenses will exceed revenues by less than $1 million as we spend some carryover dollars from programs like I-728 and make other one-time expenses. We will still be able to maintain our five percent fund balance required by board policy and continue to provide important educational  programs.”

The presentation also highlighted a trend in school funding that was disturbing to board members. As Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent, noted, “State basic funding has dropped from almost 57% of our budget to just over 53% since 2006-7. At the same time, we have become more dependent on local levy funds, which rose from 18.5% of the budget to 20.2% for next year. The state has essentially shifted more of the burden for education to local taxpayers.”

Ms. Posthumus pointed out that federal stimulus dollars have filled in for some budget needs. She anticipates that more significant budget cuts will be needed in developing the 2011-12 budget when federal stimulus dollars will no longer be available unless the state economy improves significantly.