This section of the Community Report provides a snapshot of the district’s finances and factors that affect our budget. For a complete report including a line by line operations budget, please see our Guide to Understanding the Financial Plan.
The Superintendent, working with the Chief of Finance and Operations, prepares an operating budget prior to the beginning of each school year which must be approved by the School Board and submitted to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction before August 31. Our District has been recognized for its fiscal management (such as keeping administrative costs more than 2.5-percentage points below the King County average) by earning the highest bond rating on Moody's scale of any school district in the state.
For 2013-14, the District has a $183-million operations budget (a cost of $35.30 per second to run during the school year). The operations budget is used to fund all programs, services, textbooks and materials, salaries—everything needed to run the District day to day. The majority of the District's operating budget is provided by the state on a per-pupil basis. However, this formula does not fully cover the cost of a modern education, and the District relies on a local maintenance and operations (M&O) levy to provide more than 20-cents of every operations dollar. The M&O levy helps cover the gap between what the state provides and the actual cost of staff salaries, transportation, and special education services.
Further exacerbating the funding shortfalls, the state does not apply its formula in an equitable way across school districts. Issaquah ranked 257 out of 295 state school districts in 2011-12 in per-pupil funding (Issaquah receives $9,084 per student, compared to the state average of $9,816).
Between 2009 and 2012, the state cut more than $16 million from the Issaquah School District's operations budget. In an effort to offset these cuts by asking local communities to foot a larger share of the costs, lawmakers authorized a 4-percentage point increase in the amount of dollars districts could raise through local M&O levies. Because of this increased M&O levy alongside strategic operational reductions focused on protecting classroom resources, Issaquah has been able to weather the state’s cuts. However, this 4-percentage point increase is set to expire in 2017. This will result in an estimated decrease of $13 million annually.
We did get some good news in January 2012 with the Washington Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington. The court ruled that the state has not been meeting its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education and gave the state until 2018 to remedy the situation. While nearly $1 billion for K-12 education has been restored thus far, this only increases the state share of revenue for education by 1%, moving it from 60% to 61%. The state is roughly $7 million short of the goal. To learn more, visit the OSPI website.
Outside of the operations budget, district voters can authorize bonds and levies when needed to build new schools and buy school buses and certain pieces of technology. These dollars can be used exclusively for their legally-defined purposes (construction/critical repairs, bus purchases, and technology), and cannot be used to bolster the general operations budget. For example, a school bus levy can be used to buy a bus, but the money to pay the driver, buy fuel, and maintain the bus comes from the operations budget. The Issaquah community approved three significant 4-year levies in February 2010, which have been supporting classroom learning, bus efficiency and safety, and technology. These levies are set to expire and voters will be asked to renew these important levies in February 2014. To ensure optimal learning and safety, voters also approved a $219 million bond measure in April 2012 that will provide for critical construction and maintenance/repairs for the next eight years.
In sum, our classrooms do amazing work creating the highest standards of educational program with limited resources. We are fortunate to have continued great support from the Issaquah Community and groups such as the Issaquah Schools Foundation and PTSA who work alongside us in realizing our mission.