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ANACORTES — The Anacortes School Board approved Thursday night a $40 million budget for the 2019-20 school year.

The balanced budget will have a focus on staff and money allocated to programs that Superintendent Mark Wenzel said will help the schools meet their priorities and help students.

“We are investing in what we have set out as most important to us and the students,” Wenzel said. “Community support plays a major part in this budget.”

That’s because, in addition to state and federal funding, voter-passed local tax levies, donations and area partnerships mean the district can continue to offer services for all students, Wenzel said.

About 87% of the overall budget expenditures go toward staff salaries and benefits, district Finance Director Dave Cram said.

“The people in our system are the difference makers,” Wenzel said.

The district is receiving more money from the state this year as part of a decision to increase property taxes throughout the state to provide more money to schools to fund basic education. Those funds are going to staff after salary increases were instituted last year.

This year, the district is receiving $813,117 more in state funding and $861,483 more in special education funding, but because of a levy cap it will receive $706,539 less in local levy dollars. That means a total of $968,061 more in resources.

Salary expenditures went up last year. In the 2018-19 school year, the district spent just over $33 million in staff salaries and employee benefits. The 2019-20 school budget projects it will spend more than $34 million.

The district cut about $1 million through staff attrition and by cutting programs such as the district-run preschool program.

Board President Bobbilyn Hogge thanked the staff Thursday for their dedication to finding those cuts and balancing the budget.

Going into the 2019-20 school year, the budget is balanced and all employee bargaining groups are expected to reach agreements with the district in the coming week, Wenzel said.

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