What to know about upcoming ballot

2 measures to be on ballot for Mukilteo School District voters in February
By Marci Larsen, Superintendent of the Mukilteo School District | Dec 06, 2017

For most people, the issue of how school districts get and spend money is something they likely don’t think much about.

That’s only natural. They have a great many other important things to deal with in their daily lives.

But, every so often, there will be a heightened interest in the topic because a school ballot measure will be on the ballot for voters to consider.

The voters in the Mukilteo School District will have that opportunity in February when they consider two ballot measures.

Now is a good time, therefore, to bring up the confusing issue of school finance and help shed some light on the complicated way that school districts get the funds they use to operate and how that money is spent.

The basic thing to understand is that we get money from three sources: the state provides us with about two-thirds of the money we use to operate, the federal government provides almost eight percent of our revenue to pay for certain specific programs and the rest comes from voter-approved tax measures that collect money from local property owners.

These tax measures come in the form of both bonds and levies.

The bonds are used to finance large construction projects and levies grant the school district the permission to collect a certain dollar amount through taxes for a set number of years.

The money collected by a levy can only be spent for a specific purpose.

A levy approved by voters in 2016, for instance, allows us to collect a total of $20 million during the six years from 2017 through 2022 for the purpose of maintaining and modernizing school buildings.

The biggest levy is one that pays for the cost of educational programs and activities that are not funded by the state.

These programs include lessons for students that are held after school, pay for substitute teachers, the elementary music program, new curriculum, professional development for staff members and all of the athletics and extra-curricular programs.

It also pays for things that the state doesn’t fully fund, such as transportation and services for special education students.

In 2014, the voters in the school district approved a four-year levy that pays for those things, but that levy is set to expire at the end of 2018.

That’s why the Mukilteo School Board approved a measure for the February ballot that will ask voters to renew that expiring levy.

Called an educational programs levy, it would collect money for those purposes beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2022.

The voters also will be asked to approve a four-year technology capital projects levy that will collect a total of $22 million from 2019 through 2022 to modernize technology systems in Mukilteo schools.

Next month, I’ll go into more detail about the amount of money that the educational programs levy will collect, how that money will be spent, how that spending relates to recent requirements that the state should spend more on education, and how all of this will impact your property taxes.

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