School tax rate capped for at least another 2 years

It’s anybody guess after levy limit expires
By Dan Aznoff | Apr 07, 2017

Taxpayers in Mill Creek are already paying the highest amount allowed to support the Everett Public Schools, but that could all change when the levy limit expires and the state takes on its court-ordered mandate to fully fund education.

The state Senate approved a bill in March that would allow districts to continue special levies that amount to 28 percent above their current level of revenue from the state to fund operations and maintenance. The one-year extension was approved to give lawmakers time to consider a full basic education package mandated by the state Supreme Court.

The extension will have no impact on taxpayers in the district, according to Superintendent Dr. Gary Cohn, because the Everett Schools are still operating under the four-year 28 percent levy approved by the voters. He said the district will come back to voters in February of 2018 for another four-year levy once the state determines how much of the financial burden will be left to local schools.

“The rate could go back to 24 percent beginning in 2019, which is what the (state) House has proposed,” Cohn told The Beacon. “That is assuming that the state picks up the salaries and benefits for teachers and staff. Or it could actually go down if the state takes on the entire cost of education for K-12.”

The opposite could be true if local schools are given additional responsibilities in the formula they use to fully fund education, according to Jeff Moore, executive director of Finance and Business for the Everett schools.

“There could even be some layoffs,” Moore said.

The crisis over school funding, Cohn said, began in 2010 when cuts to the state budget forced more of the financial burden onto local districts. The cuts prompted legislation that allowed public schools to ask voters to approve levies from one to four years to supplement basic education.“

"Everett is not like many other areas of the state where voters turned down bond issue after bond issue, and schools were forced to make drastic cuts to services or other non-educational areas in order to maintain the level of education for our students,” said Cohn. “The voters in Everett have never turned down a levy. Even when it required a super majority (60 percent) for approval.

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