A levy funding Green Mountain School is up for a renewal vote in the August primary election.
Green Mountain School is asking for a three-year property tax levy at $1.50 per $1,000 of the assessed value of properties, the same rate as is in effect with the current tax that expires next year.
Voters passed the current levy by about 59% in 2016, which was initially at the rate of $3.55 per $1,000 of assessed value.
That rate was cut with the cap on district levies that went into effect this year, brought on by legislation passed in 2017 that addressed the McCleary school funding court case where the state supreme court ruled Washington wasn’t adequately funding basic K-12 education.
That cap brought all levies formerly known as “maintenance and operations” levies to $1.50 per $1,000, the same rate for the levy on the ballot for next month’s election.
Green Mountain School Superintendent Tyson Vogeler explained that though the cap cut funding to the district — dropping from a planned $550,000 this year to close to $300,000 — the increase from state funding was “roughly the same” as the difference.
“We weren’t winners or losers in the game with House Bill 2242,” which made the changes to school funding, Vogeler said.
Sticking with $1.50
Legislation passed this year raised the levy cap to $2.50 per $1,000. Though when the board was considering the levy replacement it appeared lawmakers were going to pass the cap increase, Vogeler said through financial projections it looked that the district wouldn’t need an increase for the duration of the potential new tax.
Vogeler said that although districts usually put forth levy and bond votes in February, the board did not want to run another request for funding so soon after they ran a successful capital facilities levy. That ballot measure passed last November with 55.5% approval and will raise $1.25 million over five years.
The board decided to run the vote for levy replacement later in the year but not in November where a second attempt for passage couldn’t be run before the levy expired, Vogeler explained.
Because the replacement levy was at the current rate, changes to homeowners’ property taxes would likely be a result of increasing assessed values, not from the passage of the ballot measure.
“It shouldn’t be a change really at all,” Vogeler said.
Funding basic education
Vogeler said that currently, the levy accounts for a little less than 20% of the district’s operating budget for its general fund — prior to the cap it was more like 26% or 27%, though he added that state funds now make up a greater percentage, balancing out the overall funding.
As to whether or not the district will eye a levy greater than $1.50 per $1,000 on the next replacement three years down the line, Vogeler said that was an unknown. The district would need to finish its four-year financial projection, and there was uncertainty as to what the legislature would do in the meantime before another renewal was needed.
Vogeler added that the board also discussed whether or not the increased levy caps would put the state back to where it was before the McCleary fix, with local funds being a primary source of funding basic education.
As a district that only goes up to eighth grade, with students attending high school in neighboring districts, Vogeler said Green Mountain School was essentially a basic education district that didn’t have the focus on extracurricular activities like school sports or specialized programs for high school students.
“We’re truly doing basic education but what the state appropriates to our district is insufficient to run the program that our voters expect,” Vogeler said. He gave an example of administrative funding from the state being below 70% of what the district needed.
In terms of outreach, Vogeler said the district provided levy information in its regular newsletter and will host a forum at the district campus (13105 Grinnell Road, Woodland) at 6:30 p.m. July 30. When speaking to The Reflector he said that the levy’s passage would assure the district would maintain its current level of operations, with one grade level per classroom.
“We are continuing the programs we currently offer. We are not looking to increase staffing or increase programs or levy a new cost on them,” Vogeler said. “We’re looking to continue what we’ve been doing that’s been successful for a number of years.”