Levy passage looks likely

Levy election percentages continue to fluctuate slightly as absentee ballots are counted, but it looks like Federal Way Public Schools will get to keep its levy.

Still, school district administrators are holding their breath as the state legislature faces a $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion budget shortfall.

District Chief Financial Officer Sally McLean said they’re “thrilled by the voter support,” but are still concerned about where the axe will fall in Olympia during the legislative session.

The approval percentage in the Federal Way Public Schools two-year maintenance and operations levy has dropped slightly from almost 66 percent late last week to about 65 percent as auditor’s office staff continue to count absentee ballots.

So far, 14,987 voters, almost 20 percent of those registered in the Federal Way school district, went to the ballot boxes or mailed in absentee ballots.

Levy funds approved at last week’s election won’t enter the district’s budget until spring 2003. District staff and a budget advisory committee are currently working on the 2002-2003 budget.

The 2003-2004 maintenance and operations levy will be distributed across the district much like the 2001-2002 levy.

Currently, 37 percent of the 2001-2002 levy goes toward certificated staff, including 90 class teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses. Thirty-one percent goes toward classified staff — about 200 secretaries, custodians, school security officers and classroom assistants.

Eight percent goes toward literacy training for teachers and staff, 8 percent goes toward transportation, 7 percent pays for school supplies and materials, 7 percent goes toward student athletics and activities and 2 percent goes to administrative staff support.

Last year’s part of the two-year levy funding approved provided about $21 million, or 15.5 percent, of the district’s $137 million budget.

State funding provided almost 75 percent, or about $101.6 million of the 2000-2001 budget.

Federal funding provided $7.8 million, or 5.7 percent, and other, unspecified sources provided $5.7 million, or 4.2 percent.

The loss of some of that state portion of funding concerns district personnel.

Lobbyists in Olympia are trying to bolster support for a bill that would remove the supermajority requirement for school levy elections and replace it with a simple majority vote.

Because that change would require an amendment to the state constitution, voters would have to approve it in November.

The King County Auditor’s Office will certify last week’s election Feb. 15. A canvass report — voting numbers broken down by precinct — will be available Feb. 19.

Meanwhile, district personnel are waiting on a House of Representatives budget proposal with some anxiety.

“K through 12 is 50 percent of the budget,” McLean said. “It’s reasonable to expect reductions.”

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