Citizens weigh in: Pro and con statements on Edmonds School District levy proposal

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Publisher’s note: We are presenting pro and con statements from two Edmonds School District voters regarding the Proposition 1 levy appearing on the Feb. 13 special election ballot. Residents in the cities of Edmonds, Woodway, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and parts of unincorporated Snohomish County will be voting on a measure, which would allow the district to collect $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value on residences within the district. This will total between an estimated $49 million and $78.5 million per year from 2019-2022.  (Click here for more information about the levy.) Ballots were mailed to Snohomish County voters on Thursday.

Vote yes: Levy will ensure students receive quality education

As a former Edmonds School Board director, father of four children (all of whom attended the Edmonds School system), private businessman and property owner in the district, I support the upcoming school district replacement school programs and operations levy.

The levy is not an additional tax but a continuation of an existing one. The tax pays for approximately 20 percent of the current classroom and support programs which by law must be voted on every four years.

For a number of years the state has failed to fund the schools adequately and our local levy has had to supplement our schools to make up the difference. While the state has recently increased its support of the public schools (through the McCleary lawsuit which forced it to), it has still not fully funded the state school system. The levy revenue (and levy tax rate) is expected to decrease while the state funding (and tax rate) is expected to increase. This increase by the state will not offset/replace the levy at this time.

I feel fortunate that I live in a district that values education. Our citizens have consistently voted over the years in favor of the levy to ensure that the 20,000 students in our district receive the quality education they deserve. Vote yes for the levy!

Kory DeMun
Edmonds

Vote no: Levy will make home ownership even more unaffordable

As a 35-year Edmonds homeowner and concerned citizen, I’m opposing the Edmonds School District’s proposed quarter-billion-dollar, four-year property tax levy that will appear on the Feb. 13, 2018 special election ballot.

The Edmonds School District will receive a 41 percent increase in funding from the State of Washington in 2018 and increasing amounts in future years due to the new state school funding legislation passed in 2017. The district has proposed a levy on district homeowners that is higher in 2018 that was in place in 2017 ($2.35 per $1,000 assessed value with an increase to $2.37 per $1,000 assessed value) even though the student population has decreased. Beginning in 2019, the state has capped the levy amount at $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value and the district has projected levy revenue at $49 million in 2019 and increasing to $78.5 million by the year 2022.

With the levy, from year 2018 to year 2022, the District General Fund Revenue Analysis projects a 19.64 percent increase in funding to the district’s current $260 million budget.

If passed by district homeowners, this levy will make the cost of home ownership even more unaffordable. It will result in higher property taxes for every homeowner in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway, Brier and unincorporated Snohomish County due to the increased rate of assessment, the increase in State of Washington funding, and the dramatic increase in assessed value of homes.

Based on this information gathered from district officials, the school board, Washington State legislators and Snohomish County Assessors office, I am encouraging voters to vote no on Proposition 1 by the Feb. 13, 2018 deadline.

Tom Nicholson
Edmonds

 

2 Replies to “Citizens weigh in: Pro and con statements on Edmonds School District levy proposal”

  1. It is so disappointing that our elected leaders at the state level have done such a poor job of responding to the courts for school funding. The follow data is from memory but will serve to show the problem we all face with funding schools. Before the case the state paid about $6-7B for schools representing about 45 percent of the budget. To comply with the courts the state needed to come up with $2-3B more that moved school funding to near 50% of the budget. Most if not all of the 300 +or- school districts relied on local levies to support the budgets approved by the local school boards. By defining and calculating what “basic” education is, that set up the requirement for the state to come up with $2-3B. We all know the discussions of new taxes or shift money to schools, but the fact is our state elected officials did not fix the problem. They tossed some money at it but fell short by $1-2B.

    The courts spoke again, the legislature said they will step up and the governor says we have plenty of money to fund basic education. While the new tax issue is still on the table the most likely short term fix to satisfy the courts is to take money out of the “rainy day fund” and call it good for this next budget cycle. That would comply with the courts but not fix the funding problem in a sustainable way. The “raining day fund” is simply taxes we have already paid that is in storage. Tapping it will not fix school funding.

    No matter where the state finds the money it is only for “basic” education. The state never did and does not now plan to provide the full funding for what we provide our kids in Edmonds. The local amount needed to fund the budget projections will decrease (depending on who’s numbers you use) from around 30% to under 20% but it will not go to zero. Our current local levy rate for 2018 is $2.37/1000 which produces around $79m. The new lower rate is $1.50/1000 designed to produce about $49m or about $30m less. Since the state has not completed it’s work one can only rely on various estimates. I have seen estimates to are around $30m added to ESD but until they finish in Olympic we do not really know. But if it is around +$30m then by collecting $30m less at the local level with put the budget about in balance. But we would still need the lower number of $49m to balance the budget. Without it we will not fund schools in 2019 to the level we are today. Zero is less than $49m.

    Think for a moment if you were a school board member, elected to educate the kids in ESD faced with the numbers above. What would you do? Hard to take the position that zero is a good number for local dollars to support schools. Did they pick the perfect number? Probably not because Olympia is still bob and weaving. So using the estimates they had they did what we elected them to do. They voted to have a replacement levy to fill the estimated budget gap!

    The other fact few talk about is Olympia had to come up with a way to fund all 300+- districts. Their plan to fund it relies heavily on property taxes and the fact of the matter is districts that are property rich will pay more than districts that are property poor. The property rich districts will subsidize the property poor districts. Here are the top 5 districts who will pay more or less in 2019 based on a report analyzing all districts in the state. Edmonds will be paying $300 more.
    More: Mercer Island, $990; Issaquah, $800; Bainbridge, $660; Bellevue, $660; Northshore, $460
    Less: Carbonado, -$570; Clover Park, -$410; Pasco, -$340; Cosmopolis, -$310; Union Gap, -$300

    So voting No will create a budget hole that will have to be solved with another election or cuts to the budget. The cuts would be pretty deep based on the data I have seen.

    So voting Yes will probably fill the budget hole and may even collect more than needed in 2019 than will be needed to create a balance budget. Then the school board will be faced with 2 choices. 1. Find a way to reduce the taxes to balance the budget. 2. Propose improvements to education in ESD that would improve or kids education.

    By voting Yes the issues will be easier to fix than by voting No.

    The Courts did their job but the Legislature and Governor did not. Now it is up to us local folks to find way to continue to educate our kids.

    One idea if you do not want to pay for our kids education in ESD one can always move to Carbonado and join the 600 folks who hope Mt Rainier does not erupt. They also do not have to pay for ST3.

    Ignored

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