State budget cuts hit LWSD - 1.7 million less than planned

State to provide district about $1.7 million less than planned

The state legislature held a special session on Saturday, December 11th, to address the more than $1 billion state budget shortfall. Budget reductions approved in that session will cut state education funding to Lake Washington School District (LWSD) by an estimated $1.7 million in the middle of the school year.

The district’s financial approach has been very conservative over the past several years.  Not only have cuts been made but long-term financial planning has resulted in reserves that can now help weather this storm.  These efforts have resulted in reserves in excess of the five percent of general fund revenue required by the Board of Directors. Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent, stated that the district will use these excess reserves to cover this unexpected mid-year reduction in state revenue.

“Our staff has worked very hard to watch all spending,” noted Dr. Kimball. “As a result, we will not have to lay off staff in the middle of the school year, which would be very difficult for staff and students alike. We will continue to be very prudent in our spending and will carefully monitor the situation as we begin creating the budget for next year. ”

The major impact on the LWSD budget is from the elimination of the grades K-4 enhanced staffing ratio, which will be eliminated by the state beginning February 1, 2011. This enhanced ratio provided additional funding to reduce class sizes in these grades. With this cut, the state has eliminated all enhanced funding for lowering class size in grades K-4.  The exact total for LWSD is expected to be about $1.5 million for this school year.

In addition, the Beginning Educator Support Team (B.E.S.T.) grant will be reduced by 50 percent. The district will lose $163,450 in funding as a result.

The state legislature plan also included the use of the Federal Education Jobs money to balance the state budget.  The result will be a reduction of the district’s basic education funding equivalent to the $4.9 million in federal funds recently allocated to the district by the state. The district had hoped to use these federal funds to help soften the blow of next year’s expected cuts but that will no longer be possible. The mid-year cuts will translate into $2.9 million less revenue for the 2011-12 school year.

The budget reductions made on Saturday when combined with cuts that Governor Chris Gregoire is making add up to around $700 million. When the Legislature meets again in January, it is expected to address the rest of the budget shortfall.