Issaquah’s 18 million dollar deficit

Nicole Hume, Editorial Board

When it comes to running a school district, money matters. 

For the Issaquah School District, the issue of money has become increasingly important as the budget deadline for the 2023-2024 school year approaches. Not only that, but Issaquah is facing a deficit of almost $18 million dollars in their budget, which will have to be made up through other means.

Much of this deficit can be explained by examining recent downturns in enrollment numbers in the school district. According to Principal Brownson, the Issaquah School District has seen the overall number of students go down dramatically. Multiple causes factor into this decline, such as students leaving school during the pandemic, the high housing cost in the area, and other issues that may have changed the locations of students. With the end of the pandemic, many students also returned to school, raising costs, while the amount of money received is still decreasing due to the overall downwards trend in students.

The district’s budget is allocated to schools based on their number of students, so if a school’s enrollment drops, so does the amount of money the school receives. Due to rising costs, the district’s budget faces a growing deficit, which means the school district is spending more money than it actually has in revenue.

According to Student Representative Sofia Kovalenko, the budget has been a continuing discussion within the school board. Most importantly, the lack of money is causing severe funding issues in certain areas, such as special education, which are required by law to be funded. 

“We had to cut science and math departments, and right now, teachers are overwhelmed,” Kovalenko said. “We have to make up for the funding, but it’s only causing problems in other areas.”

For Liberty High School, this has several implications.

“The elementary schools have been most affected by the enrollment drop,” bookkeeper Laura Mattson said. “But that doesn’t mean that the future will be the same.”

While Liberty may not experience the effects immediately, there are several areas where the school may begin cutbacks to save as much money as possible.

“We will most likely see a cutback in staffing, since it is where the district spends the most money,” Brownson said.

After that, programs and other support positions are in danger of also being removed, which means that students will overall have fewer opportunities than in previous years. While the district’s budget allocation is separate from the ASB budget, the two often support one another, and changes to the district budget will change where and how ASB can allocate their funds.

To solve the most pressing issues, the Issaquah School District has turned to levy money in order to bolster programs that are federally required to be funded. However, this levy money was not initially intended for this use, causing a conflict between federal and state law. As the school budget also faces a deficit, this has caused the fear that local taxes to fund levies will increase, and levies will no longer be enough to support the district. 

“It’s such a dilemma, because what can you do? It’s either break this law or break the other law, and fail to support and give students the education they deserve,” Kovalenko said.

Overall, Mattson and Brownson assure Liberty students, staff, and families that while concern is understandable, the district has everyone’s best interests in mind, and is determined to continue providing the best education possible. 

“I really don’t know how this will affect Liberty,” Brownson said. “We have had similar situations in the last few years, but the district always makes it a priority to have the lowest impact on students.”

For more information, please refer to the Issaquah School District board, which releases information about the budget regularly on the district website. A Community Listening Session will be available from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the district Administration Building on March 2 to further discuss the development of the budget.