News

Jobs, school closure threatened in budget

By KENNY CHING

Staff writer

Federal Way Public Schools’ $6.4 million budget shortfall will result in drastic cuts, such as the reduction of the equivalent of nearly 98 full-time employees, the elimination of fifth-grade band and orchestra and the closure of at least one undisclosed elementary school under superintendent Tom Murphy’s budget proposal.

Much of the employment reduction would be achieved by offering employees early retirement and by not rehiring already-retired teachers. By eliminating fifth-grade instrumental music, the equivalent of about nine full-time jobs will be cut, officials said.

An elementary school would be closed under the plan for the 2004-2005 school year. No schools have been chosen yet, nor has criteria been developed to select a school to be shut down, according to the school district.

Presenters of the budget to the School Board Monday took pains to show that there was no other way to achieve the legally mandated balanced budget than by reducing employment. Murphy and Sally McLean, the district’s chief financial officer, said that 85 percent of the budget goes toward employment. Therefore, little discretionary money existed with which to make up for the gaping hole in funding, they said.

Another measure that would be implemented –– sure to be unpopular with student-athletes –– is “pay for play,” a revenue-gathering strategy that makes students who want to play school sports pay a fee. Officials were hesitant to estimate the individual fee amounts, but said whatever is charged will need to raise $450,000 to pay for interscholastic sports. The actual fee will be announced later.

Outdoor education would be eliminated, which consists of camps usually attended by sixth-graders. A portion of the gifted and talented program, GATE, would also be eliminated.

High schools will receive $150,000 less apiece next year, saving the district $600,000. Other cuts were also indicated in transportation, administrative services, human resources, maintenance, information technology services, library assistance, the Internet Academy, Junior ROTC and curriculum.

The dire numbers were based on the state budget proposed by Governor Gary Locke. Murphy said that if the state Senate’s version of the budget is passed, the situation will be even worse.

Comments on the budget can be e-mail to Budget@fwsd.wednet.edu. Public comment will be accepted at school board meetings.

The School Board must approve a budget by the end of August.

“This is just awful,” said board member Bob Millen. “After eight years of economic growth, in just a few short years we’re balancing the budget on the back of education.”

Murphy called for the state to live up to its “paramount duty” to provide for the education of “our children.”

The audience of about 50, as well as the board members, applauded Murphy when he said the lack of funding “dooms the children who are least able to fend for themselves.”

Staff writer Kenny Ching: 925-5565 kching@fedwaymirror.com

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