Lake Washington School District avoids cuts

There will be no cuts to the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) 2010-11 budget, superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball announced Wednesday.


There will be no cuts to the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) 2010-11 budget, superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball announced Wednesday.

While the recently adopted final state budget includes cuts to K-12 education funding, LWSD analyzed the state-funding impact to its budget and determined cuts will not be needed of the 2010-11 school year, according to a LWSD press release.

The legislature’s approval of a local levy lift increase will allow the LWSD to collect enough money in local levy dollars to make up for those state cuts, according to LWSD communication director Kathryn Reith.

The district will not hold budget input meetings this spring because there will be no cuts — or additions for that matter — to the 2010-11 budget, Reith said.

The Lake Washington School District covers a number of schools in Sammamish, including Eastlake High School, Inglewood Junior High School, and six elementary schools in the northwest section of the Plateau.

Kimball said he was pleased with the budget news on a short-term level, but was concerned about future funding.

“We’ve gotten a reprieve,” said LWSD Superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball. “I’m relieved that cuts ended up being less than anticipated in the proposed budget packages. However, I’m concerned about the state’s increasing reliance on local taxpayers to pay for what the state should provide, and am concerned about the loss of federal stimulus dollars in another year.”

Total cuts to the LWSD budget amount to a $3.5 million reduction in state funding. The largest amount comes in the elimination of voter-approved I-728 student achievement funds. Three-quarters of those dollars were cut last year and the remaining $2.3 million were cut in this year’s state budget.

Another significant state cut comes by reducing fourth grade K-4 class size enhancement dollars, for a total of about $900,000. The last state-funded Professional Development day for teachers was also cut, which amounts to $455,000.

The state did increase district funding for some general costs, adding about $275,000 to the Lake Washington allocation for non-employee related costs such as utilities and fuel.

In addition, the state legislature passed a local levy package that enables the district to collect more revenue by protecting the base amount on which levy collection is calculated and increasing the percent of that base it can collect by four percent.

As a result, LWSD now has the state authority to collect 28.89 percent — rather than 24.89 — of a certain package of state and federal revenues through its Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy. However in the February election, the voters approved that the district could collect 49.1 million in 2011, which amounts to 26.7 percent of the base amount, lower than the state’s newly approved allotment.

The district could collect the difference, but that would mean the district would have to fund another election, Reith said. The district does not anticipate going to voters to ask for an increase in levy authority for 2011 to allow it to collect the full 28.89 percent now allowed by law, Reith said.

Holding another election will cost the district around a quarter million dollars and if the levy amount is raised, voters might shoot it down, Reith pointed out.

Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard said determining levy measure amounts to be approved by voters “is a difficult balance.”

“We have to predict for four years the district’s needs, local enrollment growth, state funding and federal funding,” Fogard said. “For the February election, we based our EP&O levy proposal on the growth we saw in the levy base over the last four years. With the state legislature’s change in the levy lid, we will be able to collect about 26.7 percent of the base in 2011.”

The district will collect about $4.5 million more in the 2010-11 school year based on the voter-approved levy money authorized in February’s election. That increased local levy revenue will restore the $3.5 million in reduced state revenues plus a reduction in federal Title I dollars of about $800,000. The result is a flat budget for next year.

“While we can rest easier for next year,” said Kimball, “we still have to anticipate what will happen in 2011. The federal stimulus dollars now going both to the state to fund education and to our district directly are scheduled to end. We will continue to use our dollars carefully since the loss of significant amounts of stimulus dollars is just a year away. If the state economy does not pick up enough to make up for that loss, we could face another round of cuts for 2011-2012 and beyond.”

Kimball will present his budget proposal to the LWSD Board of Directors at the June 21 meeting, which will include a public hearing to allow for comments from local residents. The board will vote on the budget at its Aug. 9 meeting.