Mercer Island School District sets budget for 2011-2012

Dean Mack, the executive director of business services and human resources for the Mercer Island School District said the district has accomplished bridging the financial chasm for the next three years, at the only mid-summer school board meeting July 27.

Mack said the district is projecting flat enrollment for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The budget cycle, which begins Sept. 1, begins with a  general fund balance of $4.2 million.

Revenue is projected at $44,312,802; the lion’s share is state funding at $23,591,962, with the balance coming from local levy collections, federal funding, local fees, tuition, gifts and grants which includes monies from the schools foundation “Bridge the Gap” campaign, and a sliver coming from other grants or agency funds.

With expenditures expected to be $44,809,668 this still leaves the district with a healthy $3.7 million reserve or 7.9 percent. Mack said 4 percent is the absolute lowest he wants to see in reserve.

Mack said money from both the 2008 and 2010 levies are still in place for capital improvements. The largest capital projects in this budget cycle are the upgrade and expansion of the music room at Mercer Island High School, which is budgeted at $2,160,000 and technology improvements at $3 million. The design process is underway for the music room now. The district plans to have it ready for the fall of 2012.

In negotiations with the Mercer Island Education Association, the district reached a tentative agreement in late June for a new three-year contract after several months of negotiations. The contract will not be ratified until August 31, the first day of school. Until then, details have not been disclosed.

However, superintendent Gary Plano said that entering into a multi-year agreement with teachers does carry some risk, and that’s why it’s important to keep a healthy fund balance.

Mack was asked by the board if the Legislature discriminates against school districts like MISD and Bellevue, which do have a sensible general fund balance.

“This is not unusual in the state of Washington,” Mack said. “School districts in Washington are generally very well managed.”

He said of the 295 districts in the state, 280 are well managed.

Mack said his goal was not to keep a constant fund balance, but to keep programs constant and let the fund balance fluctuate.

Enrollment plays a part in the equation, too, but the first time the district will have useful information on enrollment will be in the first few days of school when kids actually take a seat.

Plano said a few more students in the district should not effect the budget.

For a look at the entire budget, line-by-line, feel free to pick up the “Guide to Understanding the 2011-2012 Budget” at the district’s business office.


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