School district's budget adds money for first time in years

The Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) superintendent's budget recommendation has staved off significant cuts for the first time in a number of years, and actually saw money being added back into the district's coffers for the first time in a while.

Sally McLean, assistant superintendent of business services for FWPS, had some good news to share with the school board during the May 28 meeting.

As a result of the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision to fully fund education, Federal Way will see an increase in money to pay for Materials, Supplies and Operating Costs (MSOC). According to McLean, the district will receive $1,850,000 toward the amount that's used from local levies to offset supplies and operating costs.

In the past, the primary drivers for any basic education funding increase were the salary increase through Initiative 728 and its accompanying Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), which were passed in 2001.

McLean noted that some other areas that will see increases in state funding include Special Education/Basic Education Allocation, which will see an anticipated bump of $660,000. Transportation funding will see an expected increase of about $1.6 million.

"That (transportation funding increase) will release those funds that we've been using out of our local levy to support transportation and allow us to support something different," McLean noted.

Another area that will see an increase is the addition of all-day kindergarten for all kindergarten students at Valhalla Elementary, McLean said.

"The total estimated McCleary increase that we're looking at is $4,435,000," McLean summarized. "This represents about 50 percent of the I-728 funding we lost two years ago. It's really exciting to talk about restorations and enhancements, but we're still far from being whole."

McLean noted that with freeing up of some of the local levy/local equalization assistance monies, the district hopes to eliminate approximately $735,000 in fees it collects from students/parents for various classes, clubs and activities.

"That might be for student planner (books), it might be for an art class, it might be for an instrument rental," she said. "We're looking to remove all of those barriers to students who may not enroll in classes that have associated fees with them."

In addition, McLean said the district anticipates it can now absorb the costs of athletic transportation in the upcoming school years. The district had moved to have those costs absorbed by schools' Associated Student Body clubs with fundraising drives, but can now eliminate that need, McLean said.

One increase in expenditures was a 2.25 percent increase into retirement/pension funds for FWPS employees. That 2.25 percent increase will translate to approximately $1.7 million, McLean said.

A few other areas that the district has restored or plans to restore are elementary school counselors and custodial positions, McLean noted. The elementary counselor positions that were reduced two years ago have now been restored, and so have three custodial positions.

McLean did caution that the overall budget would run more in the expenditure side than the revenue side, which has been the case for some time now. For this budget, McLean expects that pattern to continue, but did note that the district has put in place a budget planning philosophy that focuses on affordability and sustainability.

"At some point, we have to make sure that we're building budgets where our actual spending isn't continuing to run…above what we have in revenue," she said. "I think there's lots of very exciting things to celebrate in here, related to parent and taxpayer relief."

"It's so much nicer than times gone by," board president Tony Moore said. "I love what I'm seeing."

"I'd echo what you're saying," board member Danny Peterson said in reply to Moore. "The atmosphere tonight is much better than two years ago. (When we had a) packed house and people crying. Tonight it's a different feel. It just shows what a good place we're in."

The first public hearing for the 2013-14 budget is scheduled for the board's June 11 meeting, with final adoption of the recommended budget slated for the board's June 25 meeting.


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