The Lake Washington School District budget for the 2013-14 school year was proposed at the June 24 board of directors meeting. At that time, a final agreement had not yet been reached on the state budget for the fiscal year that began a few days later, on July 1.
As a result, the budget plan the board considered and approved at its August 5 meeting was a little different. Edits reflected the actual, final state budget.
Short–term: higher state funding, small federal cuts, more local levy dollars
In recent years, state funding allocations to our district have been flat in the good years and cut significantly in the bad years. This year, the final state budget included changes to public school funding that began to restore some past cuts.
Some of those dollars are committed to specific purposes. For example, a salary reduction instituted by the state in the last budget is restored. Some new dollars are committed to particular programs and cannot be spent on anything else, such as the Learning Assistance Program ($ .586 million) and English Language Learners ($.252 million).
The state also added funds to reduce underfunding in areas that still are not fully funded by the state. The largest additions went to Maintenance, Supplies & Operating Costs ($4.989 million) and Transportation ($1.386 million).
On the other hand, the district will lose $392,000 in federal grants due to sequestration. And the district has not regained millions of dollars in class size enhancement dollars. Voter Initiative I-728, passed in 2000, provided for additional money to help students reach new state learning standards, until the state legislature reduced that funding to zero between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Long-term: fewer local levy dollars
Local levy dollars have been filling in for much of that lost funding from I-728. The district has managed due to an increase in the amount the district can collect through local levies that the legislature passed in 2009. The additional revenue the district has been able to collect beginning with the Educational Programs and Operations Levy passed in 2010 has filled in for many of the state cuts.
However, that lift to our levy lid was temporary and will end in 2018. In the short term, from 2014-15 to 2016-17, local levy dollars will increase because of that higher lid. That will be followed by a significant decrease in the long term, 2017-18 and beyond, when the lid returns to previous levels. At the same time, there is no concrete assurance that state funding for schools will increase.
District will spend some in the short term but keep must keep long-term shortfall in mind
The bottom line for 2013-14 is that an additional $6.7 million is available in the general fund. Some of those dollars are committed to specific programs: the state gives us the money to be used in those categories and we will spend it in those categories.
An internal representative group reviewed the district’s strategic plan and recommended spending of a total of $1.6 million on items that directly help the district meet its strategic goals. For example, those items included additional world language and Advanced Placement course textbooks, which will help the district work toward meeting its goal of academic success for every student.
The $6.7 million increase in revenue, less the additional spending of $1.6 million, results in $5.1 million in contingency funds that have not been committed. The district will engage in processes with the Board of Directors to align spending with the district’s strategic plan. Any additional spending will be planned to take into account the expected long-term revenue shortfall.