Mercer Island School Board to host public budget hearing

The Mercer Island School Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on the 2017-18 district budget at 6 p.m. on Aug. 24.

The proposed budget plan makes the adjustments necessary to reduce class sizes to secure future K-3 class size improvement funding, retains the elementary Spanish-language program and continues to meet the scope of secondary requirements related to increased BEA instructional hours and the 24-credit graduation requirements at the high school level.

Over the next few years, the district expects to see additional changes in state and local funding levels, educator compensation and enrichment.

Direct classroom and building support consists of 62.2 percent of the district’s budget, which includes teachers, supplies, textbooks, staff, curriculum development, student activities, athletics, technology support and more.

The board reviewed the budget at its Aug. 8 and Aug. 17 meetings, discussing efforts to reduce average class size to 17 over the next two years and the expected reduction in levy authority. The 2016-2022 Capital Projects Levy, including technology, will continue as approved.

The district is adapting to the new funding model recently adopted by the state Legislature to fully fund statewide education and satisfy the requirements in the McCleary court case. There continues to be uncertainty about the impacts of the state budget on the funding of public education.

“The state has made sweeping changes in funding and allowable uses for funding. The fiscal outlook for Mercer Island is promising, with more predicted revenues coming in the school year 2018-2019 and after,” according to the district. “However, with the additional funding comes significant restrictions on how state and local funds can be spent.”

One of these restrictions is on the district’s ability to raise a Maintenance and Operations levy, which has been used to add programming, additional staff and provide better wages. It is being replaced by an “enrichment levy.”

Enrichment levies can’t be used to provide for “basic education” costs. Districts also need to separately budget, track and report on enrichment levy dollars and all local revenues, such as Schools Foundation and PTA donations. Mercer Island could see a $5-7 million reduction in levy authority, according to the district.

For more, see the School Board’s agendas at www.boarddocs.com/wa/misd/Board.nsf/vpublic?open.

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