News

Schools can use extra jingle

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Well, the holidays are over, so let's think about something uplifting: Bills.

Sally McLean, Federal Way Public Schools' financial officer, has been thinking about the bill for the 2005-06 school year. She expects it's going to be tougher to pay than the one for the current year.

For one reason, the school district took advantage of a rare chance to raise the levy lid on property owners for the 2004-05 academic year. The Legislature allowed schools and other taxing districts to increase the lid –– what's charged per thousand dollars –– above what had been allowed. The district used that chance to supply the budget, which still didn't have enough for some programs like outdoor education, and to amend a shortfall.

In the next year, the district will have to contend with rising costs, including an increase to the district's pension program, and not have an increase in revenue like it experienced this year.

Recently, Governor Gary Locke released his proposed state budget for the 2005-07 biennium. He proposed $11.6 billion for basic education over those two years. He also called for increases to K-12 education, including cost-of-living raises for teachers and money for reducing class sizes. Both issues, approved as initiatives by voters, have been stalled by the Legislature.

Locke proposed new taxes on liquor, beer, wine and soda –– estimated at more than $500 million –– to pay for some of these increases.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson said she appreciated Locke's support of education and proposing the new taxes to fund items that have been looked over in the recent past.

"However, most of the proposed additional educational support relies on new revenue," Bergeson said. And Locke is not going to be in office when the future budget is debated in Olympia.

"We've always treated (the governor's proposed budget) as the high-water mark," McLean said. But with Locke leaving office, it's hard to say how much of his proposal will actually become reality.

"It will be an interesting (legislative) session," McLean said.

The Legislature convenes Jan. 10.

Along with the usual politicking that goes on during budget season is the fact several school districts, including Federal Way, have filed a lawsuit against the state demanding that special-education be fully funded. The districts argue the state constitution and previous case law puts them in the right for requesting full funding.

Districts do get some money for special education, but also use money collected from local property taxes.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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