- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—The La Conner School Board on Monday approved the district’s 2015-16 budget, which Business and Operations Director Bonnie Haley described as full of “ups and downs.”

The district expects to spend about as much as it receives this year, but will still end up around $1 million in the black thanks to a healthy 2014-15 year-end reserve.

Like others across the state, the La Conner School District will benefit from additional funding as the state attempts to comply with the 2012 McCleary decision, which ordered the state to provide ample funding for basic public education.

However, all of the money that La Conner receives and more will go to Legislature-mandated 3 percent pay raises, Haley said.

“All the funding we got from the state was fantastic, but it was eaten up in salary costs,” she said.

S u p e r i n t e n d e n t Ti m Bruce said the salary mandates are important to keep the district competitive with nearby districts.

Another “up” for the district’s budget will be statefunded all-day kindergarten. While many districts, including La Conner, have been funding all-day kindergarten on their own, the state has been funding allday kindergarten for more schools each year.

“Which is great for our district, because we’ve been paying for that,” Haley said.

The district is also expecting slightly more in federal Impact Aid, including $200,000 from previous years.

However, many things in this year’s budget remain uncertain.

“Our budget going forward is going to be unique,” board member John Thulen said.

As a result of the federal 2013 Great Wolf Lodge decision, which took 931 buildings valued at approximately $138 million in the Shelter Bay and Pull and Be Damned Road communities off Skagit County property tax rolls, the district lost nearly $800,000 in property tax dollars.

“The $20,000 question — or perhaps bigger — is: What will the taxes be, or the contribution coming from the tribe be, in the future?” Bruce said.

While the district and the tribe are still discussing any contributions — now or in the future — the 2015-16 approved budget did not include contributions from the tribe, Haley said.

“For now, we’re moving forward with what we know to be true,” Haley said.

The district is also faced with paying off a $20 million bond for construction on the middle and elementary schools, but with fewer property taxes to pay for the project, the district was able to approach the state for an adjustment in its statematching funds.

As a result, the district will receive an extra $775,000 in its capital projects budget, Bruce said. That money can only be used for building costs, and the district will likely use it for energy efficiency upgrades, he said.

“If we’re paying less in utilities, hopefully we’re helping our general fund,” Bruce said. “(It) is certainly better than nothing.”

Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista @skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, face book.com/KeraReports

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(c)2015 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.)

Visit the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.) at www.goskagit.com

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