Last year to address the Supreme Court McCleary decision mandating the state’s paramount duty is to fully fund education, legislators reset how schools are funded. Starting with the 2018-19 school year, state funding will increase and local levy funding is capped at a lower level: $1.50/1000 of assessed property value or $2500 per student, whichever is less.
To pay for this, in 2018 the state property tax rate will increase by $0.94/1000 in the Snoqualmie Valley. To help offset some of that state increase, the Snoqualmie Valley School District will have to trim its $2.26/1000 local levy rate. If voters renew the proposed Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy on February 13th, that local levy rate will be $1.50/1000 in 2019 and $1.45/1000 in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The combined net effect (increase from state/decrease locally) on Snoqualmie Valley taxes in 2019 is a .27/1000 increase. For 2018 (only), the education increase will be higher due to the state education tax levy increasing before the local levy cap begins.
Education Funding on the Rise
The new state education funding model will add millions of dollars to the budgets of many districts over the next three years, including the Snoqualmie Valley SD. With the increased state funding and the passage of the EP&O levy, SVSD could see this year’s $85 million operating budget increase to $104 million by 2020-21. The local levy would contribute $14 – $19 million to the SVSD budget in each of the four years.
This has left some in the community asking – where will all the new state funding go and why do we still need a local levy?
District officials says most of the new state funding will go two places: class size reduction and employee compensation.
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Stokes explained that because the new state funding is earmarked for certain expenditures considered ‘basic education’, budgetary items covered by local levies haven’t gone away – things like nurses, counselors, special education, transportation, substitutes, etc.
A big chunk of the new funding is reserved for class size reductions and hiring teachers for those new smaller classes. And the catch? If the district doesn’t reduce K-3 class size, it doesn’t get all of the additional state funding. This means districts across the state are gearing up to hire more teachers in the next two years, creating a teacher hiring frenzy and a tight market statewide.
Additionally, new education legislation changes how districts pay teachers. The state will now use an average pay structure, which the district anticipates will require pay raises for [some] SVSD teachers, although the increases will still be negotiated locally.
District: EP&O Levy Bridges Gaps
Asst. Superintendent Jeff Hogan, who has been heading up SVSD’s teacher recruitment efforts, said there’s probably never been a better time to be a teacher. He said at recruitment fairs, teachers have become savvy. They want to know things beyond just their salaries. They consider workday hours, professional development/training practices, technology connectivity, paid leave, etc. – some of which are covered by local levies. Stokes said even with new state pay structure, SVSD estimates local levies will still kick in about $4500 of each teacher’s salary.
In the 2018-19 school year, Stokes said the district anticipates $10 million in additional state and local funding. Of that amount, $4-5 million will only be seen if SVSD lowers class size and hires new teachers. Superintendent Aune said they are committed to offering competitive salaries in order to recruit ‘top talent.’
Snoqualmie Valley Citizens for Schools Representative Corinne Alef explained with much of the new state funding directed at reducing class size/hiring new teachers and teacher compensation, the levy dollars will do what they’ve been doing for years, bridging existing gaps that the state still doesn’t fund.
She commented, “In short, the state standard for basic education is much different from what we have come to know as the standard of education in the Snoqualmie Valley.”
According to Alef, these are examples of the gaps the local levy bridges:
- 100% of extracurriculars, teacher training, instructional coaches, and locally bargained compensation component for extra work are paid with levy dollars.
- 87% of our nurses, school psychologist, and social workers will be paid with levy dollars
- 85% of substitute costs will be paid for with local levy dollars
- 34% of our food services cost will be paid for with local levy dollars
- 27% of special education will be paid for with local levy dollars
The district said some of the funds will also be used toward “improvement opportunities” like reducing students fees for extracurricular, classes/labs, supplies; program enhancements; and behavioral health services. Those would be decided later by the school board during its budget priority process, though.
In addition to the local Educational Program & Operations Levy (EP&O), SVSD also has a Technology Levy on the February 13th ballot. The proposed replacement tech levy rate is .44/1000 assessed value, a .09 increase from the 2017 rate.
According to the district, the tech levy would maintain current technology expenditures and additionally would fund a 1:1 computer initiative that will provide all 6-12 graders a computer for use in class and at home. For K-5th graders, the 1:1 initiative would be for in-class computer use. The levy would also be used to expand the district’s network so that it has the bandwidth to support the initiative.
Both levies require a simple majority to pass. Ballots must be dropped at a King County Elections drop box or postmarked and mailed by February 13th.
More replacement levy information can be found on the District website or on the Snoqualmie Valley Citizens for Schools Facebook page.