BUDGET 101: An Information Guide to School Funding
Levies, bonds and the ever dwindling State education budget are hard to track even for those who follow it closely. When false or misleading information gets out into the public it only complicates the situation and people are left feeling confused and overwhelmed.
The story of the decade in Pasco has been growth,with the number of students in our district more than doubling during this time period as more and more houses have sprung up across our community. Each school day more than 15,600 students attend Pasco schools. Providing those students with a sound education requires a workforce of about 2,000 people and an operating budget of almost $151 million.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
The total cost of operating a school district is managed from five separate accounting funds. Each can only be used for specific purposes. They are:
For the most part, the money within one fund can't be used to pay for the expenses of another fund. A school district can't use money in the Associated Student Body Fund to repair a leaking roof, for example, or use the money in the Capital Projects Fund to pay for teachers salaries.
The General Fund:
The Pasco School District’s General Fund budget for the 2011-12 school year is almost $151 million. There are three different ways to look at how that money is spent:
The largest expense item in the District’s 2011-12 budget is for employee salaries and benefits. For every $100 the District spends, $80.41 is spent on salaries and benefits. About $44 of that goes to the salaries of teachers, librarians, school nurses and principals, $14.88 goes to the salaries of classified employees (office workers, bus drivers, food service workers and maintenance staff) and $21.56 pays for employee benefits and payroll taxes. $17.53 pays for objects such as supplies, textbooks, and other purchased services including utilities and insurance. Here’s a link where you can get more detail about how the school’s district 2011-2012 General Fund is allocated to objects.
Given the District’s mission teaching and teaching support activities account for about 70 percent of total expenditures. For every $100 that the school district spends, about $60 is spent on teaching activities and another $9.01 is spent on teaching support activities, such as counseling, libraries and health services.
Pasco is the 22nd largest school district in Washington. Compared to the other largest school districts in the State, Pasco School District has been at the same level as the State average on spending for teaching activities, however in the past two years Pasco has spent approximately two percent of this budget acquiring portable classrooms. Here’s a link to a spread sheet that compares the teaching expenditures of the 30 largest school districts for the past three fiscal years, as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In the District’s 2011-12 operating budget, for every $100 that Pasco School District spends, about $11.65 is spent on building and central office administration, which includes typical business functions such as payroll, human resources, and accounting. Here’s a link to a spread sheet that compares the total administrative cost of the 30 largest school districts for the past three fiscal years, as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and a spreadsheet that compares how many certificated administrators each school district has compared to the number of students. Pasco is the same or lower than most similar size districts in our region, and has seen a decrease in this area over the past two years.
For every $100 that is spent, about $18.55 goes to operations activities such as maintenance, custodial and student transportation. As mentioned above, it also includes a two percent capital outlay, which pays for student housing (primarily portable classrooms), which has been a constant need in our District for well over a decade.
Here’s a link where you can get more detail about how the school’s district 2011-12 General Fund budget is allocated to activities.
For every $100 that the District spends, $53.03 is spent on regular classroom instruction, $10.26 is spent on special education instruction and $11.37 is spent on compensatory instruction, which includes Federal Title I programs for low-income students, the state Learning Assistance Program, and programs that support students who don’t speak English. About $22.53 of each $100 spent pays for support services, such as food services, building maintenance, school buses, and student housing in the form of portable classrooms.
As part of a statewide analysis of school district practices in non-instructional areas the State Auditor’s Office identified best practices in Pasco School District that lead to efficiencies in general administration, operations and maintenance, and food services. Among the cost saving efforts noted by the State Auditor's Office was the District’s change in school starting times to increase transportation efficiency, a reduction in administrative staff, and the adaptability of the nutrition program. All of these costs savings were made in spite of the addition of hundreds of new students. Use this link State Auditor's Office and select "K-12 Education Spending" in the Recent Reports section to see how Pasco compares to its peers across the state.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM?
The Pasco School District gets its operating revenue from three main sources. According to the 2011-12 operating budget, the school district expects to get a total of almost $148 million in revenue. For every $100 that the school district expects to get, about $74.88 comes from the State of Washington, $13.74 comes from taxes paid by local property owners and $11.11 comes from the federal government. Here’s a link where you can get more detail about the revenue included in the school’s district 2011-12 General Fund budget.
Let’s look at the three primary sources of income in greater detail:
Almost three-quarters of the school district’s revenue comes from the State of Washington because Article IX of the State Constitution says that it “is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders ...” This means that the state must provide funding for basic education. Consequently, each school district in the state receives an amount of money from the state (called apportionment) that is based on the number of students it has enrolled in its classrooms. During the 2011-12 school year, the Pasco School District expects to receive about $88 million through this apportionment.
The State also provides money for programs such as special education, bilingual education and student transportation and has provided some money for a number of programs that go beyond what it defines as ”basic education.” For example, state voters passed Initiative 728 in 2000 that was intended to provide school districts with extra money (called Student Achievement Funds) for a number of programs intended to improve student learning. Over the past three years, however, the state has eliminated Student Achievement Funds and many other additional programs in an effort to cut the State’s operating budget. You can read more about this below.
School districts offer many programs and activities that are not funded by the state. The state doesn’t pay for sports and other extracurricular activities, for example. Instead, those programs are typically funded by a levy on local property taxes that is approved by local voters. In the past this was the primary use of levy dollars. However as the state continues to cut education funding while at the same time setting forth unfunded mandates, levy dollars now must fund basic education expenses. Fifty two percent of levy dollars cover teaching and curriculum, while only seven percent covers sports and extracurricular activities traditionally associated with local levy dollars.
In Pasco, voters approved a Maintenance and Operations Levy in February 2012 that will expire on December 31, 2014. That levy will provide the school district with a total of almost $19 million during the 2011-12 school year, or almost 13 percent of the school district’s total income. Since 1989, the State Legislature through a program known as levy equalization, has provided funding assistance to property “poor” districts (like Pasco) whose tax rates for school levies are higher than the statewide average compared to other school districts. Local levy dollars, when combined with state levy equalization dollars, make up nearly 21 percent of the total District budget.
The federal government provides some funding for programs that help special education students, disadvantaged students, and students who are learning to speak English, and also provides subsidies for food services. The Pasco School District’s operating budget for the 2011-12 school year includes about $16 million from the federal government, or about 11 percent of the total revenue. Pasco receives a higher percentage of federal funding than most districts across the state because of the student demographics; Pasco has more student who qualify under federal programs that other districts.
RECENT BUDGET CUTS
During the past three years, the Pasco School District has had to face budget shortfalls totaling about $18.4 million. These shortfalls have been the result of falling state tax revenues during the economic recession. All District employee groups took cuts to their salaries in 2011-2012. Teachers and classified employees lost 1.9% which was the approximate equivalent of two work days. Administrators lost 3%. As the state legislature began its 2012 session, revenue forecasts indicated that the state was facing an additional budget shortfall of about $1.5 billion. Pasco School District continues to constantly monitor state and federal budgets to assess their impacts on Pasco schools.
DO YOU WANT ADDITIONAL BUDGET INFORMATION?
Detailed financial information for each school district is posted on the website of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Here is a link to the Report Index on the OSPI website.