FW schools seek taxpayer help for basic education, construction

Missing ceiling tiles are common at Federal Way High School, which was originally built in 1929. - Greg Allmain, The Mirror
Missing ceiling tiles are common at Federal Way High School, which was originally built in 1929.
— image credit: Greg Allmain, The Mirror

Federal Way Public Schools seeks approval of an Equipment, Programs and Operations (EPO) levy to continue taxpayer funding for basic education across the district.

The district also seeks approval for a capital levy aimed at rebuilding Federal Way High School, along with revamping playgrounds at several elementary schools.

Both levy proposals will depend on Federal Way voters in a February special election.

Sally McLean, assistant superintendent of financial services, re-iterated the need the district has for the levies during the school board meeting Dec. 13.

McLean broke down what the approximately $45 million EPO levy does, and shared an additional component of the capital levy.

“Almost 80 percent of that $45 million is spent on what we would consider basic education,” McLean said of the EPO levy. “About 11 percent of our total EPO levy goes to support students with special needs. Eight percent goes to support transportation, and 2 percent of that goes to support our English Language Learner (ELL) program.”

Calling those numbers the big view of the EPO levy, McLean then shared a more specific breakdown of EPO funds and how they relate to programs throughout the district and the district’s overall budget.

“23 percent of what we consider basic education, or what we see that we operate on a day-to-day basis, $34.3 million is coming from the EPO levy,” McLean said. “One way to think about that…is that almost one in four of our employees is paid for out of the EPO levy.”

The EPO levy covers 20 percent of the total special education services budget for the district, McLean said. Along with that, $3.2 million goes toward transportation, which is approximately 44 percent of the district’s transportation budget. The aforementioned ELL program gets $1 million from the EPO levy, representing almost one-third of that program’s total budget.

“It supports a variety of programs that have become important to us over the years,” McLean said.


With the $60 million construction levy mostly going toward the rebuilding/remodeling of Federal Way High School, McLean said some of the money will be earmarked to help with play structures and play areas at 19 of the district’s elementary schools.

Nine schools are the top priority: Lake Doloff, Silverlake, Camelot, Mark Twain, Olympic View, Wildwood, Nautilus, Rainier View and Sherwood Forest.

“The top nine, we are looking at resurfacing and play structure replacements,” McLean said.

The remaining 10 schools — Adelaide, Brigadoon, Enterprise, Green Gables, Lake Grove, Meredith Hill, Mirror Lake, Star Lake, Twin Lakes and Woodmont — are slated for playground equipment upgrades if the capital levy is approved.

McLean said there is a fair amount of excitement for these playground projects, citing conversations she’s had with various staff members throughout the district.

The capital levy will run for six years, with the replacements and upgrades of the playground equipment and surfaces to be spaced out over the six-year life of the levy. Both levies will be on the ballot for Feb. 14, 2012. To learn more, visit


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