State budget views
What’s Happening with McCleary and fully funding state K-12 education?
On day 91 of the 105th day of the 2017 Washington State Legislative Session, it looks like fulfilling the state constitutional mandate to fully fund basic education will be unmet. The House and the Senate are fairly close in the dollar amount listed in budget proposals, but there is still a huge gap in strategies for raising the funds.
The Republican method is to rely upon a statewide property tax, the Democratic plan suggests a variety of new revenue sources from closing loopholes to imposing a capital gains tax, but they have yet to pass a bill that defines the new tax. The consensus appears to be that expecting a resolution of differences before the end of the session or during a special session is unrealistic.
The next step will be to create a small working group capable of developing a compromise. Therefore, achieving a state-funded K-12 basic education resolution may leave the McCleary order in limbo for now.
However, one bit of legislation that affects schools has been finalized; it is designed to help school districts budget for the 2018-2019 school year by delaying the reduction of local levy authority for one year. This means that there will be no change in school property taxes in the Peninsula School District for at least a year.
The original Senate proposal for fully funding basic education called for a “tax swap” designed to eliminate or reduce reliance on local levies. It called for changing from local levies to a statewide property tax at the rate of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. However, the legislation that was passed reduced the assessed value rate to $1.50 per $,1000. Under Senate Bill 5607 (modified 5875), in the Peninsula School District the net school property tax levy rate will rise from 49 cents to $1.07 by the year 2021. By comparison, House Bill 2185 and HB 1764 call for new tax sources, meaning a lower net rate of change on property tax rates from 6 cents to 43 cents by 2021.
In a letter from David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management to a bipartisan committee of four—two members from each legislative body—he noted that the disagreement regarding the source and method of funding was the biggest problem. Schumacher also referenced conflicts over allocating funds to schools with high numbers of students who need additional support and schools serving student populations with high poverty levels. Related issues include the use of Free and Reduced Price Lunch program (FRPL) numbers instead of a federal census model to determine poverty thresholds, revision of the state school employee salary structure including compensation for time worked outside of basic education, and the need to convert health insurance benefits to a statewide public employee type plan.
Tax Dollars Scheduled to Return to the Key Peninsula
But the Legislature deals with more than school funding. On April 12, there was confirmation of the support given to Key Peninsula projects by our local representatives. While nothing is certain until the final votes are taken and the legislation is signed by the governor, three local projects may receive state funding.
The KP Civic Center could get $60,000 for a generator to support emergency preparedness needs of the Peninsula.
The Mustard Seed Project is slated to receive $515,000 for construction of its senior living facility in Key Center. “We are very grateful for the support that has been given to the senior housing project,” said Edie Morgan, executive director of TMSP.
The Longbranch Improvement Club has submitted a grant request for $248,000 to pay for state mandated upgrades to the Longbranch Marina. Francie Carr, president of the LIC, said, “Both Jan Angel and Michelle Caldier have worked very hard to get the marina project considered in the budgeting process. Their efforts are appreciated.”
Carolyn Wiley lives in Longbranch.