Ballots in mail for Edmonds School District replacement levy

With ballots in the mail this week, the Edmonds School District is asking voters to support a measure this February that, if approved, would continue funding various staff positions and school programs.

Last November, the Edmonds School District Board of Directors voted to include the levy on the Feb. 8 ballot. The measure would be a replacement of the existing educational programs and operations levy.

According to district staff, the proposed levy aims to bridge the gap and cover costs for staff and programs at all schools that are not fully funded by state or federal dollars. Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said the levy is the second-largest revenue source for the district and makes up about 15% of the budgeted general fund. If approved, it would renew funding for four years, through 2026.

“This levy allows the school district to continue to offer high-quality education and provide exceptional opportunities to all students so they can be lifelong learners and responsible world citizens,” Balderas said.

The proposed levy would renew the expiring levy of $1.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value that voters approved in 2018. District leaders have stressed that the levy is not a new tax and would maintain a consistent tax rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value as part of taxes to be collected beginning in 2023. If the levy does not pass, district officials have said it could mean significant reductions in staff, programs and services for students.

If approved by voters, the levy would fund several staffing positions including school nurses, counselors, teaching assistants, technical support staff and custodians. For example, an informational video posted online Friday explained that the district receives enough state funding to pay for three school nurses, while the levy covers the cost of approximately 13 nurses.

The levy would also pay for elective programs and enrichment classes and programs like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), International Baccalaureate, Highly Capable, College in the High School and advanced placement courses. Extracurricular programs such as art, drama, music and sports are also funded through the levy.

The replacement levy requires a simple majority for passage.

–By Cody Sexton

62 Replies to “Ballots in mail for Edmonds School District replacement levy”

  1. “If the levy doesn’t pass, district officials have said it could mean significant Reductions in staff, programs and services for students”. Does this mean a further reduction of staff and programs and services that we have had over the last 2 years? Does this mean we are going to pay the same for less?
    Or if this doesn’t pass are we going to pay less for the less we are getting? Starting to think the money should follow the student. I heard the 16000 dollar average cost per student in Washington public schools is about the average for private school. Home school charter school private school the more options parents have the better their children will do.

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  2. I believe that if the levy doesn’t pass, that means we will pay less and get less. This is a replacement levy, so we should not pay more. (If we do pay more, it means home values have risen, not that we are paying new tax money.) Home, charter, and private schools are options of varying success and quality, but let’s not penalize the children whose parents cannot afford private / charter schools and are not in a position to home school their kids.

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  3. Edmonds School District received $31,611,299 in federal Covid relief aid. Where do we find out where that money was spent?

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      1. Property values have gone up in the last year so assessed valuation has gone up. So if the levy passes the rate may be the same the amount we pay will be more. This levy is not part of regular funding it is a extra. The question is does this extra funding produce better educated students? Have test scores gone up in the last 4 years? How do our students fair compared to districts with less funding better or worse? How about schools with more funding better or worse? Could it be we have plenty of funding and our problems have more to do with poor leadership decisions?

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    1. After a little research, it looks like that should read 31,611.299 (decimal rather than comma). That’s from state website I found explaining allocation of COVID funds.

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    2. Please clarify the voting procedure. How many votes are required to pass. Is it true if not enough people vote the levy does not pass?

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      1. This requires a simple majority of those casting their votes. There is no minimum number of votes required for passage.

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  4. The number is accurate. You can look up at http://www.edweek.org. You can look up any school district in the country. I wouldn’t have bothered if the state number was accurate. Countless districts in the country received tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars and it would be nice to know how it was used?

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  5. Perhaps you could give me some help on where in Education Week you found the dollar amount that you indicated, Glen. I looked and found lots of numbers but nothing specific to Edmonds School District.

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  6. This information is from our district Business office.
    Federal ESSER dollars became available in 19-20 – with different amounts coming at different times. That said, all must be expended no later than 8/31/24. These funds are to be expended to respond to the pandemic – technology needs for both students and staff, particularly when remote learning is needed, personal protective equipment, COVID testing (both supplies and staff), contact tracing, additional, temporary health room assistants to respond to Department of Health rules (in addition to nurses), additional staff to support remote learning needs for students who need or choose it, and other unique needs resulting from the pandemic. It is approx. $6.9M per year over 4 years. There is also another $4M for learning loss – summer school and other extended learning opportunities that the school district has not previously funded.

    In other words, these funds are one-time funds that must be used for pandemic-related costs. In contrast, the levy covers ongoing operations and programs costs that we’ve been providing our students and need to continue to do so in order to provide a high-quality education to our students.

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  7. https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/how-washington-state-schools-are-using-a-historic-amount-of-federal-aid-to-operate-during-the-pandemic/

    The Times has covered this as well. I wasn’t aware they listed each school district. There are some follow up stories on this money being spent on sports. It doesn’t appear to be directly related to Covid, as the per student payout is determined by income level, not pandemic impacts. Hospital payouts need to be investigated as well. Federal spending shouldn’t require a FOIA request.

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  8. A replacement tax is still a new tax, which is why a new vote is necessary. For the educational leaders in this community, among others, to assert otherwise is complete and other nonsense. They’re deserve a grade of F. The newest assessment rates always come out mid to late February which is why the school district always wants to have a vote before the dollar amounts are disclosed. This dishonest move prevents sticker shock. Whether or not you support the new tax, honesty is always the best policy, I guess except for the ESD. I find it ironic that the school district banks on the ignorance, uneducation, and those being ill-formed of the true property tax amount till after the votes are cast.

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    1. so while this is a “new” tax, is it essentially a continuation of what we are now paying? i’m trying to just bottom line it: all other factors being equal, will we pay *more* tax if it’s passed? or about the same as we are now?

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  9. If the levy passes, we’ll be paying about what we currently are paying. It is a tax that will replace one that will time out and be gone. So if someone wants to quibble semantics about whether or not this is “new,” it is the basic tax we pay to support our schools and without it, the district would have to let staff go and cut important programs that we all expect for our kids.

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  10. A matter of semantics, Brian! Renewal has “new” as its root word. People added the “re” and “al” to change the meaning of the root in order to better describe reality. Renewal refers to the resumption of something that has been interrupted. Renewal is exactly what the board is requesting for the levy. If you wish to focus more on the root word, go for it!
    Relax! Our public servants as a group do not lie. From time to time we learn of a public employee who violates the rules of office, but as a group these people take on jobs that are difficult even if the work can offer rewards when progrrams work and studenrts succeed.

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    1. Bring something new to the debate other than semantics. I’m seeing a pattern. If I love my wife, I might nenew our vows. If I married another woman, the new wife wouldn’t like getting called a replacement. Replacement infers that it is another where the question is begging to be asked. Mike, Brian is making a good point.

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  11. Including Edmonds…drop in enrollment:

    “Nine districts in the region have seen more than a blip in enrollment this school year, despite massive reopening measures in 2021. Mukilteo, Edmonds, Everett, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Marysville, Northshore, Arlington, and Monroe have seen a collective drop of roughly 7,654 students in total. ”

    https://lynnwoodtimes.com/2022/01/19/school-district-bonds-and-levies-on-february-ballot/#:~:text=Nine%20districts%20in%20the%20region%20have%20seen%20more,collective%20drop%20of%20roughly%207%2C654%20students%20in%20total.

    And a levy is needed??

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  12. Without referring to anyone in particular, I hope that the people who vote negatively for the levy are only those who cannot afford it. We must acknowledge that the financial circumstances of people do not always remain the same or improve.
    On the other hand, I hope that those who can afford the renewal will vote affirmatively. In some of the responses to the article by Cody Sexton, there have been inaccuracies. I hope people will ignore statistics that are based on false or non-existent sources. I hope that a majority of voters will see that some people are so biased against the levy that they cannot deal with it rationally.
    As a final plea for a yes vote, please note that one can find specifics about enrollment in Edmonds School District at and writing “Enrollment Reports” in the search box. There one can find numbers that reflect the reality of Edmonds without being mixed up with other school districts. Also please remember that a lower enrollment means less funding from state and federal sources. Additional funding from the federal government related to the pandemic is available and welcome, but it is sporadic and complicated. With this levy the district is looking for reliable money to continue existing programs.

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  13. In response to Donald’s comment regarding the drop in enrollment, please understand that each district receives funding from the state based on the student enrollment. When the enrollment goes down, so does funding from the state.

    The levy funds staff and programs that are NOT funded by the state, regardless of enrollment. The Edmonds School District serves close to 20,000 students. It’s not okay to cut staff and programs for the students we serve.

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    1. Sure it is ok to cut…

      When there is a decline in need in any organization, private or public, it is common sense and financially responsible to cut staff and programs.

      Don’t kill the golden goose via Levies!

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  14. It is common sense and fiscally sound to cut production and eliminate flights if demand and revenue decline. Yes, if enrollment declines and along with it funding from the state goes down, the district must cut expenditures. I hope most voters will not ask that staff and programs get the axe. After all our children go through their school years only once. This levy provides steady income for staff and programs already in place, while fluctuating enrollment and the state funding it generates will make up another part of the district budget. There is no golden goose here, only in fairy tales.

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  15. The McCleary ruling was to adequately fund our education in the state. Why has this not been solved? Relying on federal funding and local levies to fill “gaps” has not worked, not even close. Education continues to be a political mess and we all know who suffers.

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  16. How many days did the Edmonds School District have in person learning for the children in 2022 and 2021?

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  17. We can talk about a $1.49 to $1.50 increase in levy. We can talk about a .7% increase in levy. But, home values in The Edmonds catchment increased, on average, 26% over last year and many home values are up by as much as 40% to 50% over the term of the last levy. This is a massive increase in $’s for the schools, and a VERY large increase in the amount of taxes owed by Home Owners. Inflation has been no where near that high, and wage growth is also not nearly that high. What if the district did some math, figuring out what the levy brought in over the last few years (annually), add an appropriate inflation buffer, and calculating a number base on typical sales for the current values of the homes, and setting the levy at that rate. It would keep the levy, hedge for inflation, still cost home owners more in absolute dollars, but would definitely be less than the $1.50 per $1000 of home value that they are asking for.

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  18. Figuring what WA state homeowners pay is a bit more complex than just looking at the tax rate. Confusion surrounding the tax rate per thousand for school districts seems to stem from the following issues:

    Other municipalities calculate their taxes on a rate per thousand. As the assessed value of a home increases, so do the taxes. However, school district taxes are capped at a dollar amount. In actuality, voters do not approve a rate per thousand, but rather a total district dollar amount. The rate per thousand is simply a mathematical formula, but the estimate of the rate per thousand is required for the district to communicate to voters in the election.

    The maximum levy for 2023 that is on the ballot is capped at $63,500,000. The estimated tax rate is $1.50. If assessed valuation in the district increases, it is not only a function of rising home values but also because of new homes and new businesses. New homes and businesses share in the total levy, so an individual homeowner’s taxes could stay the same even with a higher assessed value, because more taxpayers are contributing up to the maximum total collection allowed by the state.

    Conversely, if home values continue to increase, but a lot of businesses close down, then there are fewer paying towards the $63,500,000 and the tax bill might increase – even though assessed value would likely decrease in this scenario. This latter scenario is not only a function of the assessed value of each home, but also the overall contribution of businesses and homes in the district. This scenario is one that could also happen as a result of the levy failing, since businesses and prospective homeowners tend to shy away from communities that don’t support their schools.

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  19. As a follow up to my previous comment, the total yearly caps on collection for this 4-year levy are clearly listed in the Voters Pamphlet.

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    1. I got what you are saying. If the same was true with the last one than we must have meet that amount early so the last year taxes would have collected less because more than was expected was collected in the previous years.? My taxes have gone up every year regardless. Anyway I can’t recall any notice that my amount for the levy was reduced in any year because of taxes collected were above what was expected. At this point I could not trust what you say has happened or will happen without better accounting to the taxpayers.

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    2. I also saw a chart that indicated school funding in Washington has risen about 40% over the last five years. I don’t know if this amount is before of including special levy’s. The chart showed a little over 11 thousand per student to a little over 16 thousand today. Makes one wonder where it has all gone not to mention the 100 plus million allocated from recent federal government spending.

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  20. One can now go to the county website and check your total property tax bill for 2022. As expected the total tax bill has increased along with the portion due to ESD which is the largest portion due on the statement. Their are 8 different tax entities with amounts listed on the statement. A great exercise to read it for perspective before voting.

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  21. Schools were not open for the majority of 2020 and the second semester of 2021. The Edmonds School District laid off bus drivers and other employees. Where did the savings from laying those employees off go? What about the gas saved and the maintenance costs saved?

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  22. When someone alerts me to imminent danger such as getting hit by a car whiile crossing a street, I am grateful. I don’t feel the same when someone tells me about a bill due. I will learn about that soon enough on my own. Oh, well, Mr Murdock, I must face the reality anyway.
    Our schools were open in 2020-2021. Administrators, teachers and parents worked very hard to provide a learning environment for students remotely. I know this because I was part of it for the learning of my grandson. I can’t speak to the possible savings in gasoline or the additional costs for items related to instruction via the internet.
    From 2019 to 2021 in Edmonds my overall tax rate went down. Now in 2022 the rate is going up from 8.265232 to 8.35, an increase of approximately 0.085. That appears to be a small amount, but in combination with the increase in the taxable value of my home, I have a significant increase in my 2022 tax bill. In the past the major portion of the amount I paid has gone to our schools. This year is no different.
    I will say up front that I am fortunate to be able to afford my 2022 taxes. For those who cannot, I sympathize with the choice they must make regarding the school levy on February 8th.
    The most signifidant reason for my tax increase is related to the valuie of my home. That is largely due to the lack of housing, or in another way, the increase in demand for housing. This is not the fault of our students, teachers or school adminstrators. I believe it is unfair for them to be punished for something over which they have no control.
    I encourage everyone to vote affirmatively for the school levy on February 8th.

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  23. Just some details about the levy:
    1. The state does not fully fund Nurses, Counselors, all textbooks and instructional materials, Sports, Music, Extracurricular activities and Advanced Placement Classes and Electives, and Special Education.
    2. We have been funding the above with a local levy and this levy is a replacement for that funding and it represents around 15% of the budget for the next 4 years.
    3. The levy is intended to raise (continue funding for the above) $64m, $67m, $71m, and $75m for the next 4 years.
    4. A yes vote of 50% does the above. A no vote will create the stated budget shortfalls that will require some budget changes for those years, $277m for 4 years, or about 15% of the total budget.
    5. Speculatio: it is not likely we will cancel all the budgeted elements of Special Education, Sports, Extracurricular and some of the other things on the list. Parents simply will not allow for some of these cuts!
    6. Most of the budget relates to people costs and the best way to cut that many $’s is to cut people.
    7. Good thing we are voting now because I think it is a contractual requirement to provide certain employee groups a notice of potential layoffs in May or June.
    8. A No vote will make the time from Feb 9 to June(?) an exciting time for us to bring our budget cutting ideas to the table.

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  24. Mr Haug, doesn’t the second highest amount listed on the tax statement going to the state also help support education? Just good information for all the property owners.

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    1. MM, that was almost a trick question but yes, the 2nd highest amount on my tax bill is for taxes to the state. The rates for each item on my 2021 tax bill are shown below. The state does spend a big portion of its total budget in support of educating our 1,000,000 kids in 295 districts in the state. One in seven of our total population goes to K-12 schools. I think property taxes make up about 20% of the revenue. Our elected did not fully fund all local education and left the items listed above up to the 295 districts to fund these items with local levies. The state also leaves the funding for buildings to the local districts.

      District Rate
      EDMONDS SCHOOL DISTRICT NO 15 3.19
      STATE 2.67
      CITY OF EDMONDS 1.18
      SNOHOMISH COUNTY-CNT 0.6
      SNO-ISLE INTERCOUNTY RURAL LIBRARY 0.39
      CENTRAL PUGET SOUND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUT 0.18
      PORT OF EDMONDS 0.08
      PUB HOSP #2 0.06
      SNOHOMISH CONSERVATION DISTRICT 0.006 (estimated, actually shown as $ amount)
      TOTAL 8.35

      My point in the earlier message is the state does not fully fund local education so local levies are the method used to fund the items listed. It is our local choice to fully fund education or not.

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  25. ✂️✂️✂️ cut cut cut ✂️✂️✂️

    It’s too bloated…..Vote no!!

    ✂️✂️✂️ cut cut cut ✂️✂️✂️

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  26. MM, How we fund schools needs a bit of an overhall. That may well happen when the court case filed by the district in SW Washingtion goes to court. The legislature did not step up and sort out the alternatives in a way that the public understood the full picture. And that is just for the regular budget. No attention was given to buildings. If the State is responsible for providing school funding as a paramount duty, then we need to pay the full bill and I would include that to educate a child they should be in a building somewhere. Working on a couple of levies over the years including a massive undertaking to develop better future enrollment data was eye opening. Not only will we grow the number of kids in school, but we have a much better idea of where they will live!

    Then there was another massive undertaking to evaluate all the buildings and together with the enrollment data sort out what really is needed for building replacement and upgrades. That bond issue failed to get the 60% so we are slipping further behind each passing year.

    I know we are all “taxed out” and that makes sense. And we all want improvements in outcomes and graduation rates and that makes sense. And some would say we can do better in finding better and cheaper ways to educate the kids and that makes sense. Just one example for Edmonds was the plan to move the six graders to middle school like most other districts already do. That would have reduced some overcrowding in the elementary schools and reduced the cost or the curriculum work we do to keep the 6 graders in the elementary buildings. But that bond did not pass so we will not realize those savings.

    Many great concerns make sense but voting no to “starve the beast” will not bring about any meaningful change. What makes sense at this point is for us to vote for 150 cents/1000 to create stable funding. Then we should get engaged and work on some improvements.

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  27. So, Donald, let’s see. Should we cut out all athletics for kids? Nurses? Counselors? Performing arts? Special education teachers? Advanced placement classes? STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) classes? Because if the levy fails, ALL of this and more will have to be cut, since the state does NOT fund these vital services and programs for our students. If you don’t like that, then I suggest you contact our state legislators and tell them to truly fully fund the schools, which they did NOT do after the McCleary decision. And if the levy fails, be prepared for our community to begin to lose businesses and weaken in other ways, because an important factor that determines the strength of a community is the quality of the schools.

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    1. Perhaps rather than threatening folks who are “taxed out”, showing what property owners will actually see as an increase and then arguing why they should pay those raised taxes would be a better approach. Mr Haug pointed out that property owners pay more (3.19) to schools than any other taxing entity. Property values have increased dramatically, and that is just obvious. Our tax bill ,should this pass, is going up. Just say it and then tell us why and what that money has been used for previously. Those poor little zoomers have had less of an education in the last couple of years than in recent history, so maybe it is time to get back to basics.
      How will simply pouring more money into a bloated and failing system achieve anything? What do you tell seniors who are on a fixed income, live in a home which has a huge “value” but which means only to them that they have to pay a huge portion of their taxes to the schools. Or new homeowners who are trying to make it in this economy? Property taxes affect affordability of housing and our local businesses as well.
      Balance is needed and ignoring reality is just not fair to anyone. Do students really benefit from those programs? Show us.

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      1. If you are concerned about not being able to afford this replacement levy which doesn’t change the tax rate and you want to help the children in Edmonds School District, here is a link to assist those seniors or disabled individuals who are on fixed incomes significantly reduce any property taxes owed:

        https://snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1387/Senior-Citizens-and-People-with-Disabilities-Exemption-Program-Publication?bidId=

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        1. Many folks won’t qualify as that requires a showing of poverty. Instead they will just have to make do, as heating, utilities, food, medical insurance, and the basics continue to inflate. This is not just about Edmonds, it is about all the areas served by ESD. Voting for this levy, even if I can afford it, doesn’t mean without a showing by the schools district of true need ( showing rather than just saying it) that it is something I will vote to impose on struggling folks district wide. Not in this economy. There has been no showing by the district that pouring more money into the schools will enhance eduction at all. Where are the statistics? We have been paying more and more so what have we gotten for that?

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        2. “The rate remains the same” is misleading. The percentage taken is the rate. The assessed value on which that rate is based has dramatically increased. The rate is the same. The dollar amount on the actual tax bill will go up. 10% of $100 is $10. 10% of $1000 is $100. Big difference. Pretty basic math. Why the dishonesty about that simple fact?

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  28. So, in all of this discussion, the state is still not adequately funding our schools? That is against our state constitution and our students, teachers and tax paying citizens are not an adequate scapegoat. Fix it

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  29. Why accuse the district of dishonesty? It is not misleading. It has been truthful how it calculates the levy and for what schools will spend the money it generates. Ms Katims has written as clearly as one can about the importance to the district of the money raised by the levy. Others have given false information or opinions based on biases rather than facts. What good does it do to say, “Fix it”? The finances of our public schools are complicated for many reasons. Edmonds School District is hoping voters will offer it some stability for the next four years with the passage of this levy on February 8th. If not there will have to be cuts in staffing and programs. Anyone can look at the district finances. They are public information. Good luck trying to understand them! I prefer to trust people like Ms Katims.
    Thanks to Jamie McFarlane for offering a concrete suggestion. There may be some people who qualify for relief on their taxes. It is worth a try. I know the county has reduced the property tax burden for seniors on fixed income. This advice is more beneficial than saying, “Fix it.”

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  30. How taxes work for levies is often confusing but this is how I understand this levy will work. This may help to clear up how levy taxes work. It all relates to how much money is to be raised, what are the total assessed valuations in the district and rates. All can vary for a number of reasons.

    The district is asking for a maximum amount for each of the 4 yrs: $63.5m, 67.1m, 70.8m, and 74.8m.
    The estimate of the Total Assessed Value for the entire district is estimated to be $42.3B for 2023. TAV is made up of all existing properties and what their new assessments may be plus the new added value via new construction. 1000 living units @$500k would add $500m to the base. Let’s say the original base of $42.3 grew by 5.5% that would take it to $44.7B add the $500m and the new base is $45.2B.

    The original TAV($42.3B) x $1.5/1000 raises the $63.5m. ESD predicts that the Rate will go down during the 4yr period. If the TAV went up using the example above the new TAV would be $45.2B. A Rate of $1.48/1000 would generate the stated levy amount for 2024. Yes, your total tax would go up, but the rate would go down. The more that is added via new construction the existing folks will share less of the burden.

    You can see that if the TAV went down the maximum rate would still stay at $1.50/1000 and your taxes would actually go down and the district would not collect the intended amount.

    While your own assessment may well go up it is highly likely that the rate will not stay at the $1.50/1000 through the 4 yr levy period.

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    1. Darrol,

      I believe that you’re missing a subtle, but very important point about how our taxes are determined. Taxes are determined based on the Total Assessed Valuation of the district MINUS the tax-exempt property, which is significant. And as you point out, this too plays out in many different forms for many different reasons.

      Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

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      1. Jim, we do have tax exempt properties. There are a number of programs for low income and others. Among a largest group of property exempt from taxes would be the property owned by the government, including the City of Edmonds. But to tax city property would simply be a budget item for which we would have to have a revenue source. That would most like have to be added to our existing city property tax bill. While that may lower our school tax bill by taxing the city, we would be taxing ourselves to provide the city with a revenue source to that that tax.

        I am sure we can find something somewhere that some folks may feel should not be tax exempt land but that will always be a judgement call by those who create the exempted land in the first place.

        What am I missing in your comments?

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  31. Expecting out government to follow the state constitution and laws that they pass is not beneficial? Please do explain. Our state has been doing this at least since I was a child. They have inadequately funded education, leading to local districts trying to make up the shortage. Teachers and their students get used as political pawns and lesser income areas suffer while those of us with better incomes pat ourselves on the back for doing “the right thing” for our kids. This is wrong. The state needs to adequately fund our public education. Anything else simply widens the gap we have created between the classes. The system we have created should be illegal.

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  32. So here we are the day before the critical vote for Edmonds School District. I would be interested to know if the commentaries here changed any minds. My thanks to Ms Katims, Jim O. and Darrol H. for trying to make complex issues understandable.
    My vote is in a drop box. I hope a large percentage of the voting public participate. Sadly, this is not the usually the case. It does no harm to hope otherwise.

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  33. I voted YES. When I have beef with the schools, I take it up with the superintendent or my representatives on school board, I don’t take it out on the students by cutting their programs. At its core this levy is a renewal, a continuation of taxes already being paid. It’s not a new hit for new programs.

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  34. Mike Molly and Roger Pence, thank you for your common sense and thoughtful comments. I do believe that the majority of our community understands the importance of supporting high quality education for our students, who after all, are our future.

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