Board approves $149 million budget

September 1, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

A quorum of Issaquah School Board members unanimously approved a $149.6 million budget Aug. 26.Board member Chad Magendanz was not at the meeting.

“The state, country and world, the global economy, had a melt down a year ago,” Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said while presenting the final budget recommendation. “Throughout the year, it caused a challenge, but I can tell you all that all of us, the board, staff and community, were up to the challenge of tackling this dilemma.”

District officials, facing a $7.3 million lost in state revenue, made several cuts to their budget. They slashed expenditures from $152 million last year to just over $149 million this year.

“In the process of squeezing the budget and tightening in different areas, it is not without hurt. We are 40 to 45 teachers less than we had last year at this time,” Rasmussen said. “The impact on the buildings, staff and parents will be felt, but we have done everything in our power to minimize that.

“We are still going to have quality teachers teaching in front of our kids, quality materials and quality facilities for the students to use.”

District officials made $2.2 million in offsetting reductions, meaning reductions in noncertificated staff, like grounds maintenance and secretarial positions. Those reductions were about 22 full-time positions, said Jacob Kuper, district chief of finance and operations.

District officials also increased class sizes, by one student, in all classes kindergarten through 12th grade, saving another $1.8 million, he said.

Class size changes, kindergarten through fifth grade, are:

Grade                  2008-09                2009-10

Kindergarten           18.7                    20

First                              20                     21

Second                         20                     21

Third                         22. 5                    23

Fourth                        23.2                    25

Fifth                            24.6                   24

The impact to secondary classes is harder to calculate because of scheduling variables, but those classes increased by one student as well, Kuper said.

Class ratios for all grade levels won’t be known until final student enrollment counts are in. Those are due Oct. 1, he said.

The increase in class sizes has reduced the district’s teaching force of 1,097 by roughly 35 to 40 full-time positions, but the actual number also won’t be known until those final enrollment counts are in, he said.

At the board meeting, Kuper said enrollment projections, which provide the district money with every new child enrolled, are on target.

The enrollment projections are within three children under projection, he said.

“So, by Oct.1, we should be above projection and see moderate growth,” he added.

In addition, state legislators suspended full contributions to the state’s pension system for the next year, saving the district $2.2 million.

The remainder of the cuts will come from the district’s reserve fund.

“This was the first reduction we’ve had in quite some time and this was ‘the easy year,’ although it really wasn’t,” Kuper said. “There are a lot of different strategies, and things will be more difficult following this fiscal year, in my opinion.”

If cuts come in years ahead, reductions could come directly from the classroom and student programs, because they are already lean, district officials have said.

In years past, district officials have eliminated bus service to students within a mile of schools and started charging athletic participation fees, areas many districts are just now beginning to touch, Kuper said. In addition, Issaquah has one of the lowest administrative overhead costs in King County, he said.

In the end, the district’s budget does balance and maintains a reserve funding balance between 3 percent and 5 percent of the district’s total budget, as school board policies require.

It also reserves funding for the operation of a new elementary school, Kuper said.

The district’s capital budget for the year is $138.2 million. That money will fund new construction projects, like the Issaquah High School and Briarwood Elementary School rebuilds.

“We as a public school system can’t put forward a budget that is borrowed or in the red. We always have to balance,” Rasmussen said. “I feel very confident that we have done what we have to, to ensure an adequate ending fund balance and a reserve balance.”

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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