District officials breathe sigh of relief as Legislature approves budget

April 15, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

NEW — 6 a.m. April 15, 2010

Issaquah School District officials announced that with the state’s supplemental budget they will be able to maintain programs and class sizes at existing levels and will not have to lay off teachers this year.

State legislators approved the state’s supplemental budget late Monday night and adjourned for the year.

The compromise took nearly the full 30-day special session to orchestrate, but will raise just less than $800 million in funding over the next year.

The funding will come from additional taxes on cigarettes, beer and soda. Lawmakers also extended a sales tax to bottled water, candy and gum. Other tax initiatives include ensuring that out-of-state companies pay Washington taxes.

The budget cuts about $755 million, including about $120 million in kindergarten through 12th-grade education. In the 2009-11 budget, the original apportionment for kindergarten-through 12th-grade education was $13.56 billion. With the reductions its 2009-2011 allocation is about $13.44 billion during the biennium, according to information from the Washington State School Directors Association.

Read the complete bill here.

The new budget:

  • Includes $8 million to maintain funding for per-pupil education costs with inflation.
  • Includes $5.1 million to implement the Race to the Top education reform program, and to begin K-12 funding-formula changes.
  • Eliminates per-pupil funding for class size reductions according to Initiative 728.
  • Cuts $22 million in bus-depreciation funding, in which the Issaquah district participates.
  • Cuts $15.6 million by eliminating the last state-funded Learning Improvement Day for teachers.

However, district officials are celebratory, as Superintendent Steve Rasmussen wrote in a letter to the community Wednesday.

Prior to the compromise, district officials held their breath as the governor, the House and the Senate proposed supplemental budgets with cuts between $2.7 and $6.4 million in funding from the state to the district.

The final budget eliminated about $3.1 million in state funding for Issaquah schools. However, the Legislature also passed an increase to the district’s levy cap. The additional 4 percent increase will ensure district officials will be able to raise the full levy amount passed by voters in February, which will offset the cuts.

“The Issaquah School District now has the ability to collect a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy worth 28.97 percent of its total state and federal revenue; previously, we were capped at 24.97 percent,” Rasmussen wrote. “While this may seem very abstract, here’s the crux: Lawmakers have given us the means to use local levy dollars to offset the systemic cuts they are making to state education funding. The levy-lid lift essentially allows us to break even next year, covering the $3.1 million in state reductions as well as the typical annual growth in operating expenses.”

Read the complete message from Rasmussen here.

The budget will include $484 million in the state’s ending fund balance to cover emergencies.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign the supplemental budget later this week.

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