Clearing up confusion on school levies

  • Thursday, February 8, 2018 3:45pm
  • Opinion

By Michael Sullivan

A Special Election is taking place Feb. 13 and the Marysville School District joins districts across Snohomish County in asking voters to renew their local levies.

Some questions have come up regarding state funding and how the legislature’s investment affects overall school funding and future local levy dollars.

The Educational Programs Maintenance and Operations Levy and the Technology and Capital Projects levy were both passed by Marysville voters in 2014 and will expire at the end of 2018. The Marysville School District is asking to replace the levy for another four years, for 2019-2022. Many have heard that property taxes are going up in 2018 and that is true.

In 2017, the legislature worked hard to meet its obligation to fully fund education by implementing a levy swap. This means the state will increase the state school tax rate in 2018 and decrease the local schools tax rate for the Educational Programs Maintenance and Operations Levy in 2019.

The property tax rate increases in 2018, and the rate decreases in 2019.

The combined total tax rate for schools in 2019 is estimated to be less than the combined tax rate in 2017. Voters may ask if the state is fully funding basic education, why do we need to renew our local levies?

The state is increasing funding for basic education, but not the amount required to fully fund the level of services students require. The state uses a formula for allocating funds to a school district, and the allocation model is not sufficient to meet student needs. For instance, the state formula provides funding for about half a counselor for an elementary school.

The state has then defined that what they allocate is basic education and anything beyond that allocation is considered “enrichment,” and school districts must use their local levy to pay for enrichment items.

We know that students don’t just need a counselor for half the day, so local levy dollars help fill this gap, and similar gaps in staffing throughout the district, including everything from teaching to student safety.

Additional items the district will fund with levy dollars include special education, student transportation, substitute teachers and staff. The state does not allocate any funding for athletics or after-school programs, and therefore we must rely on the levy to keep these programs running. These programs are critical for student success and have a positive impact on our community as a whole. Although school districts are happy the state is adding more funding, it is not sufficient to meet the needs of our students.

This makes our local community’s support crucial to providing a well-rounded education for all our students. Our levies ensure that all students have the opportunities available to them to be successful in the classroom and beyond.

Michael Sullivan is the executive director of Finance and Operations for the Marysville School District.

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