Information on finances and ballot measures

By Dr. Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Jan 03, 2018

In last month’s column, I introduced you to the topic of school finances. I told you that the state provides us with about two-thirds of the money we use to operate schools. I also mentioned that most of the programs and activities that the state doesn’t pay for are funded by local property taxes that voters approve.

According to the state constitution, the state is obligated to provide ample funding for the education of all children.

I’m sure you’ve seen the news reports in recent years that there has been a bit of controversy about that requirement.

The state Supreme Court put the legislature on notice six years ago that it was not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide ample funding for schools.

I’m not going to spend much time talking about that decision, which was called the McCleary Ruling, other than to say that the legislature passed a bill late in its 2017 session that established a funding system for schools that was intended to meet the court’s directive.

What that law essentially did was redefine what the state pays for with regard to schools and what local school districts must fund.

The state pays for what is called basic education and will pay a bigger portion of the cost of education by also picking up more of the biggest expense that a school district has: the salaries and benefits of its staff members.

But, while the state will pay more, it still won’t fund everything.

As I mentioned last month, local taxpayers will continue to pay for things such as after-school lessons, elementary music programs, pay for substitute teachers, new curriculum, all sports and extracurricular activities, staff training and the cost of services for special-education students that the state doesn’t cover.

The programs that the school districts pay for are funded from the proceeds of a voter-approved property tax.

The voters in the Mukilteo School District last approved such a levy in 2014.

That measure authorized the school district to collect those taxes for four years, which means the levy will expire at the end of this year.

Later this month, the voters in the school district will receive a ballot in the mail that will ask them to approve a levy that will replace the one that is going to expire.

It also will ask voters to approve a technology capital projects levy that will be used to modernize the technology systems used in the school district.

If you pay close attention to your property taxes, you’ve probably already noticed that the billing statement that you get from Snohomish County provides detail of where that money is going. Among the entities mentioned will be the state and the Mukilteo School District.

Beginning next year, as the state begins to pay more for education, the state portion will increase and the school district portion will decrease.

What will that mean to your property taxes?

In 2017, the tax rate for the levy that pays for those things the state doesn’t cover was $2.63 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

For a house valued at $400,000, that’s $1,052 a year.

But, because the state will be picking up a greater share of the cost of education, and because the state has also put a limit on how much a school district can collect through those levies, that tax rate will drop to $1.50 per $1.000 of assessed valuation in 2019, or $600 for that same house.

Later this month, you’ll receive a fact sheet in the mail that explains the ballot measures in far more detail than I can do in this column.

Please read it carefully and, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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