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February 5, 2016

Budget Update - State Budget Challenges

Last week, I touched on some of the budget issues our legislators are facing as they work toward addressing the full funding of K-12 education under the McCleary decision. This week I wanted to review some of the areas in the state biennium budget passed last year where the legislature increased K-12 funding.

2015-2016 K-12 Funding Increases

Our legislators receive a lot of criticism for not providing adequate funding to schools.  Even though the legislators have not yet met their obligation under McCleary to fully fund K-12 education, there were significant increases to K-12 funding in the state 2015-2017 biennium budget adopted last year for which they deserve credit.

Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) - This year, the state added funding so that we could offer FDK at Southgate, Cascade, Sunset View, and Lincoln.  This resulted in the addition of 7 new kindergarten teachers.  Next year, all schools throughout the state will have FDK. This means Cottonwood, Ridgeview, and Sage Crest will offer FDK next year.  It did create a challenge in that the local District has to provide the space for the class.  In some cases, the District was able to provide portables; in other cases, the District had to convert spaces like computer labs into classrooms.

K-3 Class Size Reduction - This year, the state also continued to fund lower class sizes at grade levels K-3. As a result, the District was able to add 13 more teachers (in addition to the 7 added for Kindergarten) to schools across our District to reduce class sizes in those lowest grades.  Again, we continue to struggle with creating space to take full advantage of the K-3 class size funding. We continue to add portables, and in some cases add specialist time, in an effort to meet the ratios and receive full K-3 class size funding.
Classroom Space - This past year, the state appropriated $200 Million to help Districts create space for FDK and Class-Size reductions.  The District has applied for a share of that funding, and if we get it, we will be able to purchase additional portables or build additional space to create more classrooms.

Materials, Supplies, Operating Costs (MSOC) - The state moved closer to full funding of non-wage related basic education costs referred to as materials, supply, and operating costs (MSOC). The MSOC funding was increased by 43%, resulting in close to $6.0M of additional funds for our District to meet needs in this area.  The K-5 Reading adoption is an example of one area where this increased funding will be put to use.

State Cost of Living Increase - The legislature approved a cost of living increase of 3.0% for 2015-2016 and a 1.8% increase for 2016 -2017.  A portion of this increase is not guaranteed past 2016-2017, but it seems unlikely that the Legislature would repeal it. 

Health Insurance - The state health allocation was slightly increased from $768 month to $780 per month for a full-time employee. The state continues to evaluate the feasibility of implementing a state operated K-12 employee health insurance program like PEBB. We don’t expect a new program to be implemented any time soon.

We continue to explore alternative health insurance plan options that would provide adequate coverage and affordability for our employees.  The District currently has 240 employees enrolled in the state PEBB Plan. The KAA is the most recent group to enroll in the PEBB Plan.  Close to 180 employees have been enrolled in the PEBB plan for over a year.  We plan to gather some feedback on how the plan has been working and share out with other groups. 

Looking Forward - Our District has attempted to manage and plan for state funding increases, including some of the increased MSOC funding, by updating the budget to create financial capacity to be able to operate our two new schools - Sage Crest Elementary and Chinook Middle School - without having to reduce other budget areas. We project the cost to operate and staff these two schools to be close to $4.0M.  We also try to foresee future staff related costs, and we budget increased funding to create financial capacity to address those areas. Thus, funding that may not be needed in a current school year but will be needed the following or future school years, might be transferred to the capital fund to assist in funding large scale capital projects or transferred to the transportation fund for use in purchasing new buses. Because the transfer is not an ongoing operating cost, the funding remains available for operating new schools, addressing staff related costs and compensation, and other needs. 

Vic Roberts
Director of Business Operations

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