Painful cuts loom for school district

Tough financial times loom ahead for schools in Federal Way.

More than $12 million may have to be cut from next year’s budget, Federal Way School District chief financial officer Sally McLean announced at a school board work study meeting last week.

Superintendent Tom Murphy said he anticipates one “extremely painful” year of budget cuts rather than a succession of smaller budget cuts like the district has faced in the past.

“It’s preferable to do it once rather than two or three times in a row... just tear the Band-Aid off,” Murphy said.

In the past 10 years, the district has cut approximately $14 million from the budget. Most recently, that led to a reduction in library staff and an increase in athletic fees.

Although Murphy said he has no idea yet which programs may be cut, he said the cuts will be significant enough to have an impact on academic performance.

“For the first time ever, I believe these cuts have the potential to harm the work we’re doing,” he said. “We can’t cut that kind of money without impacting the gains we’ve made in student achievement... I’m more pessimistic and more worried about this budget than I’ve ever been.”

In June, the school district plans to release its final budget for next year. Staff who will be cut from the budget will be notified by May 15.

Murphy said he doesn’t anticipate that the district’s fair funding lawsuit against the State of Washington will provide relief for next year’s budget. That case is currently in appeals and the Supreme Court is unlikely to make a decision until the end of the current legislative session.

Murphy plans to create a citizen’s advisory team of 50 people who will meet two full days in March to discuss the budget. He plans to invite business leaders, community leaders and parents to join the team and will announce in the future how people can get involved.

Beginning in January, Murphy plans to be available for live online discussions on budget-related issues.

Contact Margo Hoffman: or (253) 925-5565.

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