Issaquah School District approves 2017-18 budget

The Issaquah School Board approved the new fiscal year’s budget at the Aug. 23 meeting, just two weeks before the start of the school year.

The fiscal year runs from Sept. 1, 2017 through Aug. 31, 2018.

No public comment was made at a public hearing for the budget at the Aug. 9 board meeting.

The budget has been in the works since October of last year.

“There was almost a year’s worth of work in that document, so thank you,” Superintendent Ron Thiele told the board after the budget was passed.

The budgeted revenue for the 2017-18 fiscal year totals $255,269,748. The budgeted expenditures total $256,462,966.

The state provides 64.2 percent of revenue this year, which Jake Kuper, chief of finance, noted was 0.3 percent higher than last year’s state contribution, but still below the peak year of 2008-09, during which the state provided around 68 percent of revenue.

The local Maintenance and Operations Levy is contributing 20.1 percent of revenue, while local fees, tuition, gifts, fines and rents account for 12.9 percent. Approximately 3 percent of funding is federal, and 0.2 percent comes from other agencies.

The district has a projected enrollment growth of 534 students this year. This, along with increasing state revenues, has provided an additional $3.8 million in local levy revenue.

Kuper noted that the levy cliff, which the state Legislature voted to postpone until the end of 2018, “prevented the loss of a significant amount of revenue for us.”

The district continues to have a funding gap in its $23.5 million special education program, which serves 1,800 students with special needs. The district took part in an appeal, which was unsuccessful, to the state Supreme Court to get the state to fully fund special education as part of the basic education program.

Last year, the district had to backfill over $4 million in special education costs; this year, that number is projected to rise to $5.4 million.

“That gap has not gotten better, in fact, it has gotten worse,” Kuper said, adding that this is unfortunate because “every special education director would love to have more staffing.”

Additionally, Kuper said that the Issaquah School District is low compared to other school districts in the state in terms of revenue received per student. In comparison to the $10,937 received by the average Washington district for each student, Issaquah receives $10,166 — $771 less for each of its 20,600 students. Sixty-three point eight percent of expenditures goes to classroom use, while 12.1 percent funds classroom support. 9.2 percent of expenditures funds special education, and other grants and programs take 8.5 percent. Transportation uses 3.4 percent of expenditures and 2.1 percent goes toward food service.

The district, according to Kuper, normally starts the fiscal year with a greater projection of expenditures than revenue to account for unanticipated enrollment growth and gifts received throughout the year. This year’s $1.2 million gap is lower than the $2.5-$3 million gap that Kuper said is typical.