Tax Dollars at Work

    Where does the money come from?

    LWSD Major Sources of Revenue during 2016-17 school year: 56.4% State Apportionment; 20.5% Levy; 11.7% State Categorical; 5.1% Federal Funds; 3.5% Fee Programs; 2.8% Other

    The district gets its operating revenue from five primary sources: state apportionment, local levy, state categorical, federal funds and fees for district programs.

    State general funds

    State apportionment, or state general purpose funding, provides the largest portion, 56.4 percent, of Lake Washington School District’s general fund revenue. The amount is determined by the number of students attending our schools and a series of formula factors. Those factors include legislatively-set base salaries, employee benefits and non-labor allocations. The collective education and experience of our teachers also affect the apportionment, since the state will provide a higher amount for teachers with more education and/or more experience.

    Educational programs and operations levy

    The local property tax levy provides 20.5 percent of general budgeted revenues. These levy amounts are capped by the legislature: the district cannot raise more money than the limit even when your property value rises or even if the community wanted to raise more money for schools. Levies must be approved by Lake Washington School District voters at a special election.

    State designated funds

    State dollars that are earmarked for specific categories provide 11.7 percent of budgeted revenues. These funds must be used for specific categories such as special education, pupil transportation, English Language Learner education, learning assistance, student achievement and education enhancements. Most of these revenues are given for a specific program and are not available for other purposes.

    Federal funds

    Money from the federal government comprises 5.1 percent of district revenues. These dollars fund such programs as Head Start and Title I (educational enhancements to improve achievement of low-income children). They also provide supplemental funding for special education programs and support free and reduced price lunches in the nutrition services program. These revenues also may only be used for their specific program purpose.

    Fee programs

    The district generates 3.5 percent of its own revenue by charging fees for programs such as extended day care and all-day kindergarten. This category includes revenue from sales of school lunches and investment interest earnings. During the 2016-17 school year, the percentage of revenue from fees will go down due to the funding of all-day kindergarten by the state legislature. This will also cause the percentage of funding from the state general funds to go up.

    Other school districts or agencies

    Payments from other districts for participation in joint programs, grants from other non-state agencies and transfers from Capital Levy for Technology Training & Applications accounts for 2.8 percent of budgeted revenues.

    Click on the tabs above to see "Where does the money go?" and "School Funding Basics."

    Where does the money go?

    LWSD Major Categories of Expenses during the 2016-17 school year: 75.7% Total Teaching; 6.2% Maintenance & Operations; 6.4% Building Administration; 4.6% Central Administration; 2.8% Transportation; 2.3% Nutrition Services; 2.0% Other

    Classroom expenses are Lake Washington School District’s budget priority. That’s where children spend most of their school day and where learning happens. So most of your tax dollars go there directly.

    Direct classroom support

    Money that directly supports what happens in the classroom draws over 80 percent of the district’s budget, 81.9 percent to be exact. This line item includes: salaries and benefits for teachers and instructional assistants; teaching supplies, materials and textbooks; salaries and benefits for counselors and librarians; special education and related services; staff development/curriculum development; and the costs of maintaining, cleaning, insuring, and providing technology support to school buildings.

    Indirect classroom support

    Other support that keeps schools going represents 11.5 percent of the district’s budget. This item includes: building administrators such as principals, school support costs (secretaries, office supplies), transportation, food services, student activities and athletics.


    District administration makes up 4.6 percent of the budget. This section includes: the superintendent and central office; business and human resources; utility costs for administrative buildings, maintenance and technology support.

    Other programs

    Makes up 2.0 percent of the district’s budget. These include our community services programs.

    School funding basics

    Ever wondered how school funding is decided at the state level? Or why there seems to be enough money for technology and new buildings but not for supplies or needed staff positions? The answer lies in the state's school funding system.

    The Basic Education Act, passed in 1977, defines formulas used to fund basic education for students in Washington state and thus what the state will pay for. Local levies are supposed to pay for extras – enhancements that local taxpayers want above and beyond the basics.

    Funding for operations is capped

    Basic education funding from the state, otherwise known as state general funding (see "Where does the money Come from?" above), made up 54.6 percent of the 2015-16 budget for the district.

    Different elements of the system were put into place so that access to education remained relatively equal across the state: a student in a poor area would not receive an education substantially worse than a student in a rich area. As a result, districts are limited in how much money they can raise through local levies.

    Those local levy dollars come from local property taxes that provide additional money for school operating funds. These dollars are intended to provide for the extras – staffing or programming beyond basic education. In recent years, they have come to be used for things that most people expect schools to offer. For example, the state funds five periods in high school but students need at least six periods to get the mix of core and elective classes that prepare them for college entrance. Local levy dollars pay for that sixth period in Lake Washington schools. The local levy dollars pay for teachers, textbooks and the cost of keeping school buildings open, among other items. It’s about 21 percent of the Lake Washington School District general operating budget.

    Increasingly, state dollars are provided through what are called state categorical funds, those earmarked for specific purposes, such as special education, transportation, and English Language Learner education. These dollars are not available for other purposes.

    Federal dollars are relatively few: just over 5 percent of the district’s operating budget comes from the federal government. That money is also earmarked for specific purposes, such as Head Start, educational support for low-income students, and support for free and reduced-price lunches.

    If state general funds, state earmarked funds, and local levy dollars do not cover the costs of running a school district, there are few legal options for the district to raise more money. It can charge fees for some programs, like extended day, athletics, or school lunches. But the ability to charge money is also limited: students are guaranteed a free education. During the 2016-17 school year, the percentage of revenue from fees will go down due to the funding of all-day kindergarten by the state legislature. This will also cause the percentage of funding from the state general funds to go up.

    Money for building schools and buying big items (buses, technology) is raised through separate ballot measures, such as capital levies and bonds. These dollars can only be spent on that specific purpose. They can’t be transferred to the general operating fund to pay for something else. So we can’t, for example, decide to use the money from the technology levy earmarked for ActivBoards or new computers to pay for more teachers: that would be illegal. We also can’t decide to use the money set aside for modernizing schools to pay for anything in the general operating budget, like staffing, supplies or textbooks.