Issaquah School Board adopts $287.7 million budget

September 13, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

On the last day allowed by state law, the Issaquah School Board on Aug. 31 passed its 2011-2012 budget.

The overall plan includes expenditures of $287.7 million, including general fund spending of $161.5 million, according to district Chief of Finance and Operations Jake Kuper.

As with most governmental budgets, the general fund pays for the day-to-day operations of the district and includes items like class materials and salaries.

Outside of the general fund, the overall budget includes $1.5 million for the purchase of new buses, $68.2 million for capital improvements, $49.5 million for debt service and a $7 million allocation for spending by student groups.

During the recent board discussion, board member Chad Magendanz warned that Olympia legislators still could have some surprises in store for the district. Magendanz said he has seen hints that a special session of the Legislature could occur with adjustments to the state budget at the top of the agenda.

If that happens, Magendanz fears Issaquah and other districts across the state could see cuts in funding, what he termed “clawbacks.” The district is doing whatever it can not to be surprised by state cuts, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said.

“We are very connected to Olympia,” he said. “We want to be prepared.”

In anticipation of possible budget slicing by the state, Kuper said the district has set aside a contingency fund of $1.5 million. He was more fearful of changes in local levy structure, changes that might prevent the schools from collecting dollars included in the budget.

In the past, Kuper and others said the Issaquah schools weathered the current financial storm and the accompanying state cuts better than some other districts. That was largely thanks to voter approval of a levy lid lift, Kuper has said.

As announced by the district in late May, while state funding to local schools dropped $4.3 million, Kuper said the lid lift and other cost-cutting measures allowed the district to recall teachers handed layoff notices in the spring. Officials promised class sizes would remain the same, but that still may be a growing issue.

Just before they passed the budget, the board was blasted for oversized classes. Issaquah Education Association President Phyllis Runyon asked the board to restore so-called overload dollars paid to teachers. The board took no action on the request.

While the district officials bragged that no teachers were cut in the current budget, some cuts were made in other areas. Student athletes also saw fee increases.

According to Kuper and Sara Niegowski, executive director of communications, Issaquah schools cut the equivalent of five full-time custodial staffers. As for high school athletic fees, players will now pay $150 per sport, up from $120. Students who take part in multiple sports will pay a maximum fee of $300.

Middle school athletes will not see any fee increases. Other fee increases were aimed at all-day kindergarten classes.

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

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