Federal Way schools bleed money — and students

Budget-wise, things are going from bad to worse for the Federal Way School District.

The district previously announced it would see at least $5 million less in funding than last year, based on the governor's proposed budget. However, students are now leaving the school district, which also adds up to lost funding.

The district estimates a loss of 320 full-time equivalent students next year districtwide, which will lead to a loss in funding of $1.6 million, said Sally McLean, the district's chief financial officer.

The district is actually predicting 335 fewer students; however, some of those are part-time students.

Already, the district has seen a drop in numbers at the high school level. From January to February of this year, 205 high school students have left the district.

The good news, say some school officials, is that most of the students are confirmed transfers, meaning other school districts already requested those students' transcripts — and that the students are enrolled in another district, rather than dropping out of school.

"Our only theory is that it's related to the economy," McLean said.

In addition, the loss of students is not concentrated in one particular area; if that were the case, the district could cut a class to save money, for example. The loss of students is spread across the district, which poses problems for making specific cuts to the budget, McLean said.

The school district has until June to finalize its budget.

Federal Way School District budget timeline

• January, February and March: Staff and community presentations and input.

• February, March and April: Discussions and negotiations are held during the legislative session to come to agreement on how to combine the three budget proposals (the governor’s, house’s and senate’s) into one budget for Washington state.

• February: Superintendent Tom Murphy announces a preliminary district budget based on an estimate of how much money the state budget will provide for K-12 education.

• March 25-26: Community Budget Advisory Team provides feedback to Murphy regarding proposed strategies to balance next year’s budget.

• May 15, 2009: Legal deadline for Federal Way School District to notify teachers that their jobs may be eliminated through a Reduction in Force (RIF).

• In May, Federal Way schools may still be working with estimated impacts of state and federal funding losses. Employment agreements require the district to tell people they might lose their jobs, typically before the budget is actually adopted. Often times, staff notified of a lay-off will be returned to vacant positions in the following school year.

• April 2009: Legislature sends final budget proposal to the governor. However, the governor has line-item veto power anytime during the process, even after the House and Senate adjourn.

• April 26, 2009: Legislature adjourns.

• April 28, 2009: Superintendent's recommended budget for 2009-2010 school year presented.

• June 23, 2009: Federal Way School Board adopts budget.


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