School Funding in Federal Way Public Schools
School districts have two separate funding streams, bonds and levies, that are specifically designated for different educational purposes. Bonds build buildings and levies are for learning expenditures. State funding, such as McCleary, does not fund school construction.
The state’s four-year implementation of McCleary does impact our local tax payers, and the Federal Way School District has been transparent about the upcoming changes in tax collections due to McCleary at a recent Federal Way city council meeting and other community presentations. The first change will be an increase by the state in the state schools tax of approximately 90 cents beginning in 2018. Every school district in the state will see an increase for one year only. In 2019, Federal Way district taxpayers will see a significant drop in the local Educational Programs & Operations Levy — it will fall from $3.94 to approximately $1.50. The levy is designated for learning expenditures only and cannot be used for school construction.
Per pupil funding is a combination of state basic education funding, federal funding and local funding. The combination of basic education and McCleary funding can only be used for learning expenditures like staff salaries, curriculum and other costs focused on learning.
With almost 40 school buildings in the district, it is prudent to create a long-term plan that addresses facility needs. This long-term plan includes four phases. With 19 buildings that are 40 years or older, we are now at phase two, reflected as a bond proposition on the Nov. 7 ballot, which will rebuild eight schools plus Memorial Stadium and relocate Mark Twain Elementary through School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) funds. If voters approve the Nov. 7 proposition, these bonds will be sold over the next six to eight years to align construction cash flow needs and manage the tax collections as promised.
It’s important to note that buildings constructed more than 40 years ago typically cost more money to remodel to comply with new building codes (such as earthquake codes) than to rebuild. The district has always retained the option of remodeling when and where it makes sense. For example, with the rebuilding of Lakota Middle School, the former gym was retained and remodeled.