Bellevue School Board to vote on $301.5 million budget for 2017-18

The Bellevue School District’s Board is expected to “fix and adopt” a $301.5 million proposed budget for the 2017-18 school year at the end of August.

With a projected $298 million in revenue, the district is planning on transferring $3.1 million from general fund reserves to offset a $4.2 million deficit.

“When the Legislature was putting together and negotiating the final budget, a lot of it was behind closed doors,” Deputy Superintendent Melissa deVita said of the state’s budgeting process.

Because the state budget was delivered late – mid-July – deVita said the Bellevue School District anticipated a flat budget, meaning no new raises. Although they planned to fund contractual obligations, they didn’t want to overspend and then not be able to continue that investment in the future, she said.

So it came as a surprise when the state called for a 2.3 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment to employees. Although the state paid for a portion of that, the district was left to pick up the raises for other staff members through local levies.

Despite a $25 million increase in revenue, which came from a levy limit increase, money to help with higher enrollment, and the state’s portion of the COLA adjustments, the district was still left with a gap.

“I feel like we’re in pretty good shape to pull out a $3.1 million reduction in reserves and to find $1 million in that short period of time,” deVita said, adding that the district may do some spending control down the line and may not use all of their reserves.

Nonetheless, if the district did use the full $3.1 million in reserves, they’re still in a pretty good spot, deVita said. It’s the School Board’s policy for reserves to be 5-6 percent of the general fund expenditures. If the district does use the full amount, that would put them at 6.3 percent of general fund expenditures and $19.1 million in reserves.

In addition to a 2.3 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment raise for teachers, a 2 percent increase in employer pension contribution, and a $40 per month increase in benefit funding, the 2017-18 budget proposal calls for 18 more full-time teachers. Seven of those new hires will be for elementary schools and six for special education.

Enrollment in the Bellevue School District has increased by 1.5 percent from last year. District officials anticipate 20,355 students this upcoming school year compared to last year’s 20,001.

The budget proposal will also reduce career and technical education class sizes while increasing materials and supplies for students. They will increase middle and high school instructional hours for English-language learners in the Transitional Bilingual Program and change the funding model to staff 17 students per full-time teacher in kindergarten through third grade if the budget is passed.

“One of the areas where we’re spending more is special education,” deVita said of the $3.2 million increase. “… We are moving forward with a model of inclusion, which basically says special needs children are general ed kids first and we’re working to put them in the least restrictive environment.”

That includes more co-teaching, she said, and working with SWIFT, an organization that provides academic and behavioral support.

As the district looks ahead, deVita said it’s still unknown how the state’s duty to fully fund basic education will impact the district. But, until then, they must plan as they always have.

This November/December the district will ask the Board to approve three levies to go on the ballot in February 2018 for a special election. DeVita said she doesn’t know what the total ask will be at this time for an enrichment levy, a capital and technology levy and a transportation vehicle enhancement levy, but did estimate the enrichment levy to be about $50 million based on new limitations. That levy would replace a $67 million maintenance and operations levy.

The district’s School Board is expected to hold a public hearing on the budget and eventually adopt it at 4 p.m. Aug. 29 in the WISC Rainier Room at 12241 Main St. in Bellevue.

For more information, a draft of the budget is available at www.bsd405.org.

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