Students are the priority for the Mercer Island School District (MISD), said Superintendent Fred Rundle, and the school community wants to ensure that they continue to thrive.
With challenging budgetary times ahead, Rundle noted that with a unified effort, the district can overcome that obstacle. Speaking during a Jan. 19 webinar, “State of Our Schools and Moving Forward Together,” Rundle said that budget issues aren’t unique to the MISD and he aims to connect and share vital information with the community while building transparency and trust.
“Yes, we have budget constraints, but those haven’t kept us from being excellent in the past and they’re definitely not going to keep us from being excellent in the future,” said Rundle, who was joined by executive director of finance and operations Matt Sullivan and director of finance Kay Adams at the presentation.
At the meeting and in the district’s 2022 annual report, Rundle said the pandemic impacted the budget when they were faced with a steeper enrollment decline than forecasted; and since the district received a small amount of federal and state recovery funding, they chose to utilize their fund balance to support students and staff.
Further — due to Island home values — “we may no longer collect the EP&O (Educational Programs and Operations) Levy based on assessed value,” and the district “expects to collect about $5 million less in 2023 than prior to the ‘McCleary Decision.’” Other fiscal constraints and challenges were inflation, rising staff costs and the district’s repayment of a $2 million capital projects fund loan.
Critical district funds are: general, capital projects and technology, debt service, Associated Student Body (ASB) and transportation. The district is funded with a three-pronged effort: local — taxes and support (22.5%); state — general and special purpose (69.5%); and federal — general and special purpose (7.7%).
Taking a glimpse at the top three 2021-22 actual expenditures by general fund, certified salaries sits at $31,738,585, benefits at $15,386,063 and classified salaries at $11,824,388. On the 2021-22 total actual revenue by source front, the top two monetary figures are: state — general and special purpose at $47,044,489, and local — taxes and support at $15,290,509.
In bringing funding solutions to the forefront, Rundle said the district is working with its 41st Legislative District representatives on bills and priorities; continuing to robustly fund special education; looking for state support to fund needed staff positions; and raising its levy authority to generate more revenue.
Speaking of levies, Rundle thanked the community for its support by passing the replacement EP&O and Capital Projects and Technology levies by more than 70% in the February of 2022 special election. The levies passed with 73.66% and 72.12% approval, respectively, which were the top statewide percentages.
“We do not take the vote of confidence for granted, but we are grateful and pledge to elevate the school district — today, tomorrow, together,” Rundle said in the annual report.