School district personnel presented the reasons for renewing the maintenance and operations (M&O) levy that will expire in 2016 at a forum held at Key Peninsula Middle School on Sept. 22.
The primary reason for the forum was to identify any concerns that might have been overlooked before finalizing a resolution to be presented to the school board in October for a spring ballot.
The failed levy vote last year was for capital improvements (construction and remodeling of school facilities).
The proposed levy would be a renewal of the expiring levy for operating costs the state has failed to fund. Seventy-five percent of the levy would continue to cover staffing costs, 15 percent for supplies, nine percent for service contracts and one percent for equipment maintenance and replacement.
“We haven’t lost an M&O levy since 1998,”said Chuck Cuzzetto, PSD superintendent. The levy periods are for four years. If passed, it would continue to collect approximately $2.28 per $1,000 assessed value from property tax for 2017 through 2020.
The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the legislature has failed in its paramount duty to fully fund schools as mandated by the state Constitution. Local levies have been filling the gap.
The state Legislature has admitted to its failure and set a deadline for itself to fix the problem by 2018.
Larry Seaquist, a former state representative and education committee chair (until he lost re-election last fall) was at the forum and said, “The 2018 deadline was not just to develop a plan to fix the problem. The 2018 deadline is to actually provide the full funding required for local school districts.”
The Supreme Court held the legislature in contempt for failing to provide even a plan to correct the funding problem by an interim deadline that has already passed. Governor Inelee is currently working with the legislature to develop a plan to present to the legislature in another expected special session in the next couple of months.
“The legislature does not have a good track record in resolving the problem,”said Cuzzetto. “We must act to obtain a replacement levy. Current discussions are that legislation would provide for the dissolution of existing levies upon funding changes made by the legislature. This would ensure that tax payers are not hit twice for the same school expenses,”he said.
According to many, the problem remains that there is no telling what actions the legislature will actually pass, or when.
Karen Andersen, the chief financial officer for the district –– who led the forum and presented the numbers –– showed the M&O levy provides 24 percent of the total school budget, including 24 percent of all teacher pay, which suggests that a failure to replace the expiring levy would significantly impact the education of our youth.