BPS sets budget for 2019-2020 school year

The Bellevue Public School district school board meets yearly to discuss not only the district budget, but also the budget for each of the schools.

The district budget was discussed at a meeting in early August to determine how the money would be spent. The total proposed budget for the school district for this year is $108,667,573 which is a 2.12% increase compared to the previous year’s budget.

“About 86% of the budget is salary and benefits, which is determined through negotiations during the prior year,” Director of Fiscal Affairs for the district Susan Brooks said. “In order to do something new, we must acquire new funding or stop doing something else.”

There are many influences on the district regarding how much money they are capable of spending. Both the economy and policy changes at the state level can impact the money they have to spend.

“The legislature can make changes to the school funding formula from year to year, which impacts available resources,” Brooks said. “The general economy also influences our budget. If home values fall, property tax funding will fall, which is a resource we also rely on.”

From the district, each school is allotted a specific amount of money based on the amount of students and other factors.

Factors like poverty percentage and special education programs also play a role in determining how much money each school in the district receives.

“The schools have a limited amount of discretionary money which must be spent following state and district rules for General Fund spending,” Brooks said. “Within those guidelines, the buildings have the ability to make decisions on how to best meet their needs, but always must answer to the Superintendent and the School Board.”

At East specifically, the money is distributed among programs like athletics, vocal/instrumental music, and student activities. Additionally, textbooks and library services are included in what the school is in charge of paying for.

“You kind of know what you’re spending, you know that doesn’t fluctuate a lot. Like our family consumer science program, for example; we kind of know what culinary classes are going to run because it fills up with students every year and it’s kind of the same size classes and so you pretty much spend about the same amount of money,” Principal Jeffrey Wagner said.

While where the money is spent is determined by school officials, students still have many opinions on where they believe the money should be going. Senior Breck O’Grady said some parts of the budget came as a surprise to him.

“I [am] surprised that student activities don’t get more funding, especially considering the large amount of activities that are under that title,” O’Grady said. “It personally surprised me that library services was at 4.7% of East’s budget as libraries have seemingly become largely obsolete in recent years.”

When focusing on the students, Brooks said that she wishes it were easier for them to have more money to spend.

“We wish we had enough money to meet all needs every year, but instead we are forced to do what we can with limited resources,” Brooks said.