The legislative session finally ended on June 30. The media have reported some results but only in general terms. Yes, Westfield Washington Schools will receive some additional money, but that is because we are a growing school district with more students, not more money per student. In fact, at the end of 2011, we will receive fewer dollars per student than in 2009.
Given the current state of our economy, we do feel fortunate to receive any additional money. This per student money is general fund money, used primarily for staffing. In fact 87% of these dollars goes to pay for staff. However, we will have more students and limited additional money meaning we will have to be very careful with hiring.
The state dictates the way money is allocated to school districts by restricting money in separate funds. For instance, capital fund money cant be use to add staff, but can be used to purchase needed technology “ different pots of money that cant be mixed.
Next update “ early August, back-to-school.
School funding will be the most important topic in the upcoming legislative session as this session adopts a two-year budget. School funding is the largest component of the state budget.
The formula for funding schools is complex, so I will be general with some statements. First, the amount of money Westfield Washington Schools receives from the state on a per pupil basis is lower now than it was four years ago. There are a number of fund categories, all with a specific purpose: The General Fund, now totally paid by the state, is used for instructional personnel. Eighty-six percent of this fund supports instruction. The Transportation Fund is used for salaries for bus drivers and fuel. The Bus Replacement Fund is used to purchase new buses, while the Capital Projects Fund is used to purchase hardware, technology, and technology support. And finally, the Debt Service Fund pays the debt used to finance construction of our buildings. Money for instruction can only come from the General Fund.
We used to speak of tax rates, but now, because of the adoption of circuit breakers, tax bills are comparable year to year. In 2009, the tax bill for most homeowners should go down (as it did in 2008).
We anticipate a very tight budget this year with the economy being so sluggish. Most districts already have, or plan to, raise class sizes to deal with a tighter General Fund budget. With such a large percentage devoted to instruction, this is really the only way to control costs.
As the legislative session proceeds toward a late April conclusion, I will give an update on how Westfield is impacted by the various proposals.
Next: General Update