LWSD board passes 2014-15 budget unanimously

On Monday night, the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) board of directors unanimously voted to pass the budget.

For the 2014-15 school year, the district's budget will include a 6.7 percent increase in revenues, rising from $256.3 million to $273.4 million in its general fund.

LWSD director of communications Kathryn Reith said the $17.1 million increase comes from various things, including $5.3 million from an increase in enrollment, as school districts receive funding based on the number of students in the district. In addition, $2.5 million comes from increased levy receipts and $7.8 million comes from new state funding. The latter has been the result of the McCleary state Supreme Court decision, which requires the state to more fully fund basic education.

"Some of (the court decision) is starting to take effect," Reith said.

The court decision ruled the state was not meeting its obligation to fully fund K-12 public education as required by the state constitution.

While the LWSD budget has increased, the district's expenditures also increased, by 5.1 percent.

According to an LWSD press release, a significant rise in spending came in staffing to support increased enrollment. That need will require an expenditure of $3.8 million. Other costs are increases in staff compensation, health care and pension costs, and another $3.8 million and $2 million for specific programs from grants and self-supporting programs.

Reith said some of the areas the increased revenue will help include more staff for professional learning for teachers, four literacy coaches at the elementary level, five more school nurses and additional grounds and custodial staff and equipment. The additional funding has also allowed the district to hire two mental health/social workers, Reith said.

In addition to being able to hire more staff, she said the district has also been able to reduce its athletic fees.

"That's been a financial burden on some of our families," Reith said.

Previously, the district's athletic fee for high schoolers was $275 per sport. Now, the fee will be $200 per sport and no individual student will pay more than $400, no matter how many sports they play. (The old cap per student was $550.) No family will pay more than $725 in athletic participation fees to the same school, down from the previous cap of $1,000. At the middle school level, the cost per sport in middle school will be $75, a reduction of $40. The maximum for an individual student will be $150, down from $210. The cap for fees for a family to the same school will be $225 at middle school, as opposed to $315 last year.

LWSD increased its fees significantly in 2009 when it was hit with major budget cuts. Reith said based on community input, families were willing to pay the higher fees in order to keep funding in the classrooms and not lay off teachers.

"Our budget additions have been designed to help the district work toward its strategic goals," said LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce. "We carefully considered how to put these funds to their best possible use."

LWSD went through a multi-phase process this spring to collect potential budget additions and review them. Reith said they surveyed parents on where they want money to go and developed the budget accordingly.

The LWSD board first received a draft of the budget at its June 23 meeting. Reith said there were no comments from the public at Monday's meeting and the budget passed with no changes.

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