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Budget still murky for Federal Way schools

As for the Federal Way Public Schools budget, many things are still unclear because of the state Legislature’s somewhat slow work on its education budget.

Sally McLean, assistant superintendent of business services for FWPS, said there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

“The good news is, we did get a Senate budget, out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee… that in its current format, (has) zero reductions to K-12 education,” McLean told school board members Feb. 28 to a small round of applause. “But every year, I have to have a picture, and this year seems more like a roller-coaster year than any other year.”

McLean said the budget reality is a bit more solid this year because of the State Supreme Court’s decision that found the Legislature is not fulfilling its constitutionally mandated duty to properly fund education.

Along with this, a small uptick in the state’s overall budget forecast has led to a more stable, but still uncertain, budget picture.

The district’s financial guru touched on a few overlying issues from the impact of the state’s 2011-12 budget, namely a salary reduction for teachers.

“The Legislature did make revenue reductions in K-12 funding to the salary allocation of our model, and that represented about $2 million of loss in state revenue. (Teachers) salaries were maintained in 2011-12 with our fund balance,” she said, the fund balance being the term FWPS gives to its “savings” account.

Along with this, McLean shared that for now, levy equalization funds, the state-matched funding that helps poorer districts like Federal Way maintain solid financial footing, are spared for the time being.

In recent years, those funds have equated to about $7 million for the district, and are vitally important to maintaining the current level of service for the students. However, McLean warned, they are still a bargaining chip for state lawmakers.

“If you do the analysis on the House Bill (2127), which proposes rolling back levy lids from 28 percent to 24 percent, and LEA from a 14 percent match to a 12 percent match, based on the numbers we know today, that could potentially impact us by more than $7 million in 2013-14,” she said.

McLean shared the district’s budget timeline, indicating a meeting of Superintendent Rob Neu and the board is scheduled for March 20. May 8 is the first deadline for Neu’s budget recommendation to the board, with the first public hearing on the budget set for June 12. The second hearing and adoption of next year’s budget is slated for June 26. The state’s budget bills are the aforementioned HB 2127 and Senate Bill 5967. Visit www.leg.wa.gov.

 

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