News

Public hears district's budget plan

y ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

The Federal Way School Board held a public hearing Tuesday night to outline the proposed budget balancing plan for the school district and some of its proposed actions — such as pay-to-play and eliminating outdoor education.

Sally McLean, chief financial officer for the district, presented the overview of the district’s budget-balancing plan and fund allocation. Following are several key points she presented:

• The district’s money is to be allocated to the general fund and four other funds –– the capital projects fund, which supports district infrastructure projects; the ASB fund, which supports extracurricular school activities; the debt service fund, which pays off long-term bond-related debt; and the transportation fund.

• The district can save $450,000 next school year by increasing high school student-to-teacher ratio from 25 to 1 to 26 to 1.

• The district proposes to save money by reducing operational costs by $150,000 for each individual high school districtwide. In total, the amount saved will be $600,000. Each high school has already submitted plans outlining how it plans to save money in the coming school year.

• Approximately $17 million has been slated to finance the new middle school. This is voter-approved bond money.

• Budget adoption authorizes the creation of Todd Beamer High School’s ASB fund to support extracurricular activities. On a similar note, the budget set aside $140,000 to secure a student resource (police) officer for the high school.

• Middle schools and high schools will have a fee-based athletic program, pay-to-play, which is projected to bring $300,000 in revenue to the district.

• Outdoor education is to be eliminated, saving the district $168,000. In addition, fifth-grade band is to be eliminated, saving the district $552,000.

• $1.7 million was cut from the budget through administrative changes in the form of personnel reduction.

BDuring the public hearing portion of the meeting, several community members spoke about the importance of Outdoor Education and their efforts to save it. Steven Meyer, a member of a public outreach program whose goal is to raise the $95,000 to save the camp program, said the program — entitled Federal Way Outdoor Education Fund Board — is sinking in its attempts to raise the needed money. So far, it has raised less than $5,000.

Melanie Oberlander, the camp fund chairperson, said, “With the community involvement we stand a really good chance (the raise the needed money.” She also said kids learn so much more in one week at the camp than she has seen them learn in nine months of education.

Diane Dorsey, an assistant attorney general for the state, also spoke up about the need to save Outdoor Education. She said she has worked with kids who come from a background of poverty or domestic abuse, and programs such as Outdoor Education help save them. She handled child abuse cases and told the Board members, “these children in particular need a positive place.”

Dorsey proposed a four-day camp rather than the previous five-day camp experience. She said there will be no cost to the district budget, and the cost will be the same to students.

“(For) any child who comes from a less than ideal background....the social aspect has a great impact on students,” Dorsey said. “There’s a tremendous amount of community support for this program and people are unhappy to learn the program has gone away.”

Community members also spoke about the proposed Pay-to-Play program.

One mother testified to the board that she strongly opposed the Pay-to-Play program. “I urge you to reconsider this and find another way to come up with that money,” she told Board members.

Final Board approval for the proposed budget balancing plan is August 12. Jeri Carlson, Business Manager for the district, said that date is tentative and may change.

She added that the public still has an opportunity to voice concerns about the proposed budget balancing plan by contacting Board members or Superintendent Tom Murphy.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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