Sunday, July 21, 2024

Lake Chelan school board member raises the alarm over growing insurance, utilities costs

Posted

CHELAN—School funding and its inadequacy were topics brought to the forefront of the May 13 monthly meeting of the Lake Chelan School District Board of Directors by board member Stephanie Fuller. Fuller attended a recent Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) meeting and was alarmed by what she learned.

While school operating costs continue to increase, the allotted FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) funds per student provided by the state to help cover those costs are not keeping pace.

The acronym MSOC stands for Materials Supplies and Operating Costs. None of the MSOC money goes to teacher salaries, active programs, or other costs outside maintenance and operations.

  • MSOC is state-funded and applies to eight specific categories
  1. Technology
  2. Utilities and Insurance
  3. Curriculum and textbooks
  4. Other supplies
  5. Library materials
  6. Instructional professional development
  7. Facilities maintenance
  8. Security and central office.
  • State funding is not keeping pace with actual costs. The gap entering the 2023-24 fiscal year was estimated at over $300 million and expected to grow (insurance costs increased an estimated 28 percent in the past year).
  • With exhausted capacity with the school district levy, the impacts of increasing costs of MSOC above state funding is very challenging for many school districts.
  • Funding for MSOCs in career and technical education (CTE), food service, transportation and grants are not portable to general education.

“What I want to point out is the utilities and the insurance,” said Fuller. 

“Our insurance went up 40 percent last year and could go up as much as 40 percent this year,” said Superintendent Brad Wilson. “It’s going up in $100,000 chunks for us.”

The 2024-25 allocation is $1,533 per FTE (Full-Time Enrollment) student. Fuller related a story she heard from a Vancouver area representative who said that one of the schools in that district has already applied most of those funds to cover just two MSOC expenses.

“That number right now is at $1,200…right now,” said Fuller. “So, $1,200 out of the $1,533 is going to insurance and utilities and that’s it.”

Fuller said that much of the news today concerns school deficits and a big chunk of that is the rising costs of insurance and utilities. She urges citizens to contact their state representatives during the legislative break and advocate for more school funding in the next session. 

“The last session in Olympia was a short one,” said Fuller. “They don’t deal with a lot of money in the short session.”

She noted that a gesture to help schools with insurance in the 2023-24 supplemental budget fell short of the need. 

“Their idea of helping out was $21 per student,” Fuller said.

Wilson added that for Chelan’s enrollment, $21 per FTE translates to about $26,000.

Fuller said she hopes that next year’s longer 105-day session will see more money budgeted for schools.

“You can’t run a business when $1,200 out of $1,500 per student is already allocated just to turn on the lights and pay for the insurance,” Fuller said.

“This year we will receive $467,701 for insurance and utilities from the state,” Wilson later told The Mirror. “Our costs are $347,332 for insurance (not counting our buses/vans/cars) and $325,816 for utilities for a total of $673,148. That leaves us $205,447 to come up with out of local funds. Our insurance is expected to go up at least $100,000 for next school year as well.”

Michael Maltais: 360-333-8483 or michael@ward.media

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here