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Federal Way schools: Some jobs are in jeopardy

Administrative positions in the Federal Way School District could be in jeopardy.

Chief Financial Officer Sally McLean laid out the numbers to school board members at a work study Tuesday, outlining why cuts in the budget could mean laying off administrative employees.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Tom Murphy asked board members to let administrative staff know, as early as next week, which positions may be cut.

Those positions will be announced at the school board meeting on March 10, after Murphy has contacted the affected individuals.

"Nothing is set in stone. The district has not made a decision to cut anybody," spokeswoman Diane Turner said. "We're waiting for the forecast from the state. This is all a moving target."

The minimum $5 million loss in state funding is too much for the district to sustain without cuts to personnel, which makes up about 87 percent of the school district's overall budget. The district has heard that cuts will most likely be higher as the economy continues to struggle, making the loss more along the lines of $6 million to $8 million, McLean said.

Federal Way already has some of the lowest administrative costs in the state. For districts with 20,000 students and over, Federal Way spends the lowest amount of its budget on administration.

Since 1990, the district has hovered between 10.6 percent and 11.9 percent spent on administrative costs. Seattle, the state's largest school district, currently spends about 15 percent on administration.

Federal Way is the eighth-largest school district in the state. Federal Way spends the most among any of the top 10 school districts on teaching and teaching support activities, right around 73 percent, McLean said. The state average is 69 percent. Seattle spends 66 percent.

Numbers: The cuts start here

• The district needs to cut about 3 percent of its total budget of $208 million. However, about $33 million of that budget is considered categorical. This means the funding depends on the whether a program is running.

• If the district cuts a program such as Headstart, Child Nutrition Services (breakfast) and special education for children under age 3, those funds go away and cannot be used to help with the shortfall.

• That leaves about $176 million in funding that is subject to cuts. Of that $176 million, about $20.5 million involves non-employee-related costs. Of that, about $8.8 million goes for mandatory costs including utilities, bus fuel and paper.

Paying the bills

The school district is looking at lowering its Ending Fund Balance (EFB), which ensures that the district always has enough money to pay the bills.

By board mandate, the EFB has been around 3 percent. Because funding from the state and local taxes does not come in equal amounts or at regular times, the district can sometimes have a great deal of money in its hands — or very little.

Chief Financial Officer Sally McLean said she is looking at all the numbers year-round to see how low the district can safely and responsibly go.

"I will look at that again," McLean told board members. "I think there is a certain point in time that having money sitting in a savings account doesn't make sense."

Costs to the Federal Way School District in 2008-09 (budgeted)

• School administration (principals and vice principals, plus the activities that surround those offices) costs the district $12.8 million.

• Extra-curricular activities, including sports, costs the district $2.8 million a year. The school libraries cost just over $2.5 million.

• Fuel for buses cost $4 million each year. The busing of students costs $6.4 million.

Source: Federal Way School District

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