Kent School District faces budget the same as a family does

The Kent School District’s Board of Directors, administration and staff are committed to providing the best educational experience possible to successfully prepare our children for their future.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Friday, July 25, 2008 4:19pm
  • Opinion

The Kent School District’s Board of Directors, administration and staff are committed to providing the best educational experience possible to successfully prepare our children for their future.

We are sincerely grateful that the community has recognized the value of a Kent School Districrt education, voting to approve bonds and levies to fund programs, hire staff, build new facilities, and refurbish existing ones.

Just like with many families, the district’s ability to live within its means is becoming increasingly difficult. The cost of salaries, benefits, fuel, utilities, food, and services are increasing faster than our revenue.

Like most school districts across the state, next school year looks to be especially difficult for several specific reasons.

• The Legislature approved cost-of-living adjustments for teachers and other staff in the spirit of the voter-approved, statewide Initiative 732. While the state funds the increases for base staff, it doen’t provide increases for staff who are funded by levy or grant monies. Increases in levy and grant revenues fall well short of cost increases.

• In response to the stock market’s lackluster performance, the Legislature increased district contributions to the retirement system by as much as 19 percent, just to keep the system solvent. Again, levy and grant revenues don’t keep up with increased costs.

• Local subsidies for federal and state-mandated programs, such as special education and homeless transportation, continue to grow. These required expenditures make it even more difficult to balance our budget.

So how will the district respond to these budget difficulties?

We intend to approach our financial issues the same way most families do. We will reduce our expenditures to the point we can live within our means. We will protect classroom instruction and services valued by our community to the greatest extent possible, but we will make sufficient reductions to remain financially sound.

The district does have a fund balance reserve, or “rainy-day” fund equal to about 10 days of operation. This fund is a major reason for the district’s stability and financial soundness.

If fuel prices go up 25 cents in a month, or a school boiler goes out, we don’t have to cancel bus service or close a school. We must maintain a reserve to do so. If we believed next year would be better financially, it would make some sense to use part of our reserves to avoid reductions now. However, there are few reasons to believe that our financial situation will be much better any time in the near future. Living within our means is the most prudent course of action.

Visit the Kent School District home page (www.kent.k12.wa.us) for a list of frequently asked questions about the budget.

While it is too early to know the precise impact of reductions, we are constructing a budget for next year, knowing that some reductions will be necessary.

We pledge that the 2008-09 budget will reflect our priorities of successfully preparing our students for their future and remaining financially sound.

Bill Boyce is president of the Kent School Board. He has served on the school district’s Citizens’ Budget Review Committee and was co-chairman of a committee that organized support for the 1996 levy election. This article originally appeared on the school district’s Web site.


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