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 3.0 percentage points below the King County average) by earning the highest bond rating on Moody's (Aaa) and the Standard & Poor's scale (AA+) of any school district in the state.
For 2015-2016, the District has a $220.2 million operations budget which is used to fund all programs, services, textbooks and materials, salaries, in short 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 21cents 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 aggravating funding shortfalls, the state does not apply its formula in an equitable way across school districts. Issaquah ranked 273 out of 295 state school districts in 2014-2015 in per-pupil funding (Issaquah receives $9,599 per student, compared to the state average of $10,465).
State Funding Cuts
During the state's "Great Recession", between 2009 and 2012, the state cut more than $16 million from the Issaquah School District's operations budget.
In an effort to offset cuts, lawmakers authorized a 4-percentage point increase in the amount of dollars districts could raise through local M&O levies, shifting the burden for a larger portion of the costs to local communities. This increased M&O levy funding, along with strategic operational reductions while protecting classroom resources, Issaquah has been able to deliver high quality programs and 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 $13.6 million annually.
McCleary v. Washington
In January 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington 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.
The State legislature has increased education funding pursuant to the McCleary decision, however we are still significantly below 2008-09 per pupil funding levels when adjusting for inflation. The "billion dollars" of funding for K-12 education this session does not fully fund basic education.
Bonds and Levies
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 2014, which support classroom learning, bus efficiency and safety, and technology. See information on the 2014 school levies here.
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 addition, voters approved a $533.5 million bond measure in April 2016. This bond provides funding for critical expansion and modernization of district properties, including the purchase of property for and construction of four new schools, rebuilding of Pine Lake Middle School, and expansion and updating of six existing elementary schools.
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.