Issaquah School District budget saves teachers, but increases fees

August 2, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

Overall, thanks in part to a voter-approved levy lid lift, the Issaquah School District is doing better financially than many other Washington school systems.

That’s the message Issaquah school board members will hear from district financial staff Aug. 9.

The board plans a public hearing on the 2011-12 school budget that evening during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. in the district administration building.

Officials are expected to finalize the budget at a subsequent meeting Aug. 24.

Perhaps the biggest piece of the school financial puzzle was settled in May. That’s when state officials finally passed a two-year budget plan, and school districts here and elsewhere around the state learned what sort of support Olympia would be sending them in the next few years.

As announced by the district in late May, while state funding to local schools dropped by $4.3 million, Jake Kuper, chief of finance and operations for the Issaquah district, said thanks to the levy lid lift and other cost-cutting measures, local teachers handed layoff notices in the spring have been called back. Still, the district did not escape the budget process unscathed, according to both Kuper and Sara Niegowski, district director of communications.

Get involved

Issaquah School Board

  • Agenda: Issaquah School District 2011-12 budget public hearing
  • 7 p.m. Aug. 9
  • Issaquah School District Administration Building
  • 565 N.W. Holly St.

If the school board approves the budget as written, the district will lay off the equivalent of five full-time custodial staffers. The spending plan also calls for some readjustment of bus routes and increases in athletic fees. Additionally, the cost of sending your child to all-day kindergarten classes will increase from $3,400 to $3,500.

Regarding the athletic fees, Kuper said under the current budget plan, high school athletes will pay $150 per sport played, up from $120. Students who take part in multiple sports will pay a maximum fee of $300.

Fees cover only about 10 percent of the cost of high school sports programs, Kuper added, saying the increases will help pay for some needed new trainers.

Middle school athletes will not see any fee increases.

As for changes to bus routes, Niegowski said the district hopes to minimize routes for students who live within one mile of their school. Issaquah schools have been adjusting routes for about five or six years, she added.

So far, according to Niegowski, there has not been much reaction to the increased athletic fees or the changes in bus routes. Because of the state of the economy, many people have come to see increased fees and similar measures as a fact of life, Niegowski said.

“The good news and the bad news is that nobody is surprised,” she added.

Teacher layoff notices originally went out in mid May. Even while local school officials waited for the state legislature to approve their 2011-13 budget, they were obligated to renew teacher contracts by May 15. Unsure of the final state budget, administrators came up with a worst-case scenario that included layoffs for 36 teachers.

According to Kuper, all potentially laid-off teachers will be back in front of students when schools open in a few weeks. Because Issaquah schools were able to halt the potential layoffs, class sizes will remain the same as in previous years, according to both Kuper and Niegowski.

All in all, according to Niegowski, the district could employ up to 1,022 certified staffers. Due to increasing enrollment, the number of teachers in the district actually is slated to increase by 1.7 percent. At the same time, however, the current budget cuts teacher pay by 1.9 percent.

District officials say the salary reduction is directly due to decreases in state funding. Certified administrators also are due to receive pay cuts of 3 percent. In a letter sent to district employees, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said teachers can earn back their pay reduction through a couple of different means, including taking on extra professional development hours.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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