The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Max Erikson

School levy lower than in previous years


December 27, 2017

The local school levy is a part of the operational budget for the Goldendale School District (GSD), and with the upcoming Maintenance and Operations Replacement Levy scheduled for a vote on Feb. 13, 2018, GSD Superintendent Mark Heid wants the community to be aware of what this levy is and why it is changing this year.

This year’s replacement levy will be different from previous levies, and property owners might be surprised to see that the amount the district is asking for is much lower than in past years.

That can be attributed to the McCleary decision—by the Washington State Supreme Court—that forced Washington law makers to devise a funding plan that would be in compliance with the state constitution that says the state must fully fund basic education for Washington Schools.

Part of the plan the legislatures devised was to cap nearly all school district levies to a $1.50 per $1,000 of property value. The flip side to the plan is that state property taxes will now go up to cover the shortage created by the smaller levy rate.

Past levies for GSD would run at about $2.38 per $1,000 assessed property values. Heid says they ran the rate at $2.38 because that was what was needed to continue to fund the programs that were already in place.

One of Heid’s main concerns with the new education funding plan is that any money reimbursed by the state may have to be used for programs mandated by the state and doesn’t give districts the freedom to put the money where it is most effectively used or needed.

“The legislature rolled this thing out with not a lot of direction or expectation for us to go by,” Heid says. “But one thing we may lose is the flexibility we had with the levy dollars to move the money to the areas that need them the most. With the state plan we don’t have that flexibility.”

School levies make up 20 percent of the districts operating budget and it is normally at the discretion of the district on how those funds are spent. With the cap on levy rates Heid estimates the district will lose nearly $800,000 that the state will need to reimburse to maintain its current programs.

“One problem with planning for our budget is that we don’t know how much money we will get back from the state or if we can use it the way we need to,” Heid says. “We don’t have a specific answer because at this point even the legislature doesn’t know.”

Part of the funds from the old levy structure were used for paying the salaries of 14 teachers in the district. Without the control of those dollars it is possible some of those positions may need to be eliminated because the reimbursement funds coming back from the state could be mandated for other things like the Learning Assistance Programs (LAP) and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

The biggest shortfall will be in the existing student programs with a loss of over $439,000 dollars. However, the legislature has stated that all schools will receive the same funding as before and that the reduction in funds from school levies will not affect current programs.

“I want people to know that this is not a new tax,” Heid says. “It is just a replacement levy that we run every few years but at a much lower rate.” Heid continues. “It is basically a levy swap by the state. Our school levy will go down but property taxes will go up to cover the loss of the lower mandated levy cap.”

There will be an open house for the community to learn more about the levy on Jan. 5 at the Goldendale Middle School cafeteria at 5:30 p.m. For more information call the school district offices at 773-5177.


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