Education levies appear passing

Monroe, Sultan, Index await more vote counting

Kelly Sullivan

Education levies appeared to be passing in three Sky Valley communities based on votes counted from last Tuesday’s special election as of press time.

If the pattern holds, the current Replacement Educational Programs and Operations levy will be renewed for Index, Sultan and Monroe school districts. The generated property tax dollars will go toward operations and programs, such as special education, transportation, electives, clubs and sports, as well as staffing, among others. Last approved in 2014 and set to expire this year, the replacement levy takes effect in 2019 and runs through 2021.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” said Monroe superintendent Dr. Fredrika Smith on Thursday. “I have had a lot of confidence in the support of the community.”

The replacement levy is expected to provide Index with nearly $701,000, Sultan roughly $11.5 million and Monroe about $52 million before it sunsets. Index’s levy is projected to amount to the highest payout in its first year, while Sultan and Monroe’s will increase annually.

Smith said funding will support existing programs, such as athletics, for which the Monroe School District receives no state support.

Index’s 96 participating voters supported their school district’s levy by the widest margin, with about 72 percent approval as of press time. Both Sultan levies levy were passing by 58 percent in Sultan, with 2,500 ballots counted. Around 7,500 ballots had been counted in Monroe, with voters approving the levy by 54 percent as of press time.

More than 441,000 ballots were mailed out for the special election. About 130,000 had been returned, for about a 30 percent turnout.

In addition to the replacement measure, or enrichment levy, Sultan voters had to decide whether to support a second levy during the special election. It is the first of its kind for the school district — a dedicated funding source for improvements to how instruction through technology is delivered. That levy was passing by nearly 58 percent as of press time.

Combined the levies will be less than the single existing levy. This is because of what should be coming in from the state to pay for a student’s basic education, according to the Sultan School District.

The state’s new plan is part of the response to the 2012 McCleary decision. The Washington Supreme Court ruling found education was not being amply funded in Washington, as is the state’s paramount duty. The date requiring full compliance was set for September 2018.

The court ruled in November that the requirements are still not fully being met, although significant strides have been made in the past five years. Because the state is still found to be in contempt, a daily $100,000 fine imposed by the courts will continue.

“Beginning in 2018, Washington State will be collecting $0.82 more per $1,000 of assessed property value in the Monroe School District to go towards education,” according to the Monroe School District.

Both Monroe and Sultan school district administrators said residents were being asked again for the extra help because of what the state will still not be fully covering. New limitations have also been imposed. The Legislature decided to increase state funding and reduce the amount of local taxes school districts can request and collect in July.

“Enrichment levies are capped at the lesser of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per full-time equivalent student,” according to the Washington Department of Revenue. The new rule will start in 2019, according to the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office.

“Depending on how much your local school levy is currently and what is voted on in the meantime, that portion of your property tax may decrease in 2019,” according to the assessor’s office.

Smith said Monroe’s local levy in 2019 will be about half of what it was this year. For a property assessed at $300,000, the replacement levy would equate to about $450 every year, or $37.50 a month, according to the school district. For Sultan, the revenue equates to about 10 percent of its annual budget. Smith said Monroe will know more about that number when the Legislature concludes next month.

“We are kind of living in a lot of uncertainty,” she said.

The assessor’s office released preliminary property tax projections for 2018 in January. Snohomish County is expected to see a 16 percent increase on average. That figure will vary per taxing district.

“The levy rates calculated for taxing districts generally decreased as a result of higher assessed values,” according to the assessor’s office. “However, levy rates did increase overall due to the increase in the state school levy and voter-approved measures.”

A measure 2017 Primary Election voters passed to restore Fire District 7’s levy lid that funds operations and services is another reason residents in that area will see a higher tax bill this year.Property taxes in Index are expected to grow by an average of 17.3 percent, 13 percent in Sultan and 17.8 percent overall in Monroe this year.

About 40 percent of the $1.37 billion in expected property tax revenue in Snohomish County in 2018 will go to local school districts, according to the county assessor. About 25 percent will go to the state for education.


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