School district presented with opportunities and challenges regarding funding

Sally McLean

The Washington State Legislature recently adopted a four-year implementation plan for K-12 funding in an attempt to comply with the McCleary Supreme Court decision requiring the state to fulfill its constitutional obligation to make ample provision for the education of K-12 students. Not surprisingly, with the significant changes in the state’s new K-12 funding system, FWPS is presented with both opportunities and challenges.

By 2019, Federal Way Public Schools taxpayers will pay less in school taxes than the current 2017 rates. They will be higher in 2018 because of the state’s action, but by 2019, for every $100,000 of assessed valuation, total school taxes will decline by $150, or almost 20 percent. This levy swap will be reflected in the February 2018 Educational Programs and Operations levy renewal. More information will be available after the November general election.

Most of the new state revenue projected over the next four years will be directed to support specific activities. For example, an additional $3.2 million is directed to support K- 3 students in order to reduce class size to 17. These funds may be forfeited since there is no space within the district to create more classrooms. A successful bond proposition Nov. 7, 2017, which is structured to not increase taxes, will support classroom expansion, but building new schools takes time.

The most disheartening and alarming part of this new budget is a concept referred to as a “regionalization factor.” The regionalization factor is intended to address different costs of living across the state by providing a base amount of funding for salaries and adjusting for local costs. While almost every surrounding school district will receive an 18 percent regionalization factor, Federal Way is slated to receive only a 12 percent regionalization factor, compounding and exasperating a funding problem in place since 1977. With less state funding to attract, develop and retain talented and committed staff in every part of our school system, which is Pillar 3 of our Strategic Plan, we will be required reduce other Basic Education services or use the majority of the local levy to provide market competitive salaries rather than offer our scholars enrichment opportunities.

If you are interested in more detail about how the state’s budget impacts Federal Way Public Schools, please contact us at comments@fwps.org or 253-945-2262.

Sally McLean is the Federal Way Public Schools chief finance and operations officer.

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