Oped: Kudos to our school district, campaign team for giving voters full tax picture for replacement levies

Let’s face it. When it comes to school funding, 2018 is the new frontier. Much of what we knew is changing.

In 2011 when the state Supreme Court handed down the McCleary Decision saying the state’s paramount duty is to fund education, we knew some kind of change would ensue. It had to. The Supreme Court basically told the legislature, you’re underfunding schools. Fix it.

So in 2018 the big fix starts as the education funding model transforms. Step one:  bump up the state school tax levy fund via a property tax increase. Step two: limit school districts’ local levies to help off set the state tax increase. It’s a two-fold process.

The hard part is step one starts now and step two starts next year, making 2018 a rough year on taxes and for many districts around the state that are running local levies, including the Snoqualmie Valley School District. These districts aren’t just running replacement levies. They’re also explaining the new funding model to voters, along with the implications on local tax bills.

When comparing the old and new education funding models – in order to properly gauge the net impact for taxpayers – you have to compare 2017 state and local school property taxes to estimated 2019 levels. You can’t compare 2018 because it’s a weird gap year when state taxes go up, but local levies haven’t been capped yet – making education tax rates higher for this one year.

To play fair with voters you can’t use 2018 as a comparable. You need to use 2017. That’s how you’re err on the side of fairness and transparency.

And that’s what our district and the levy campaign – Snoqualmie Valley Citizens for Schools – have  done. Kudos to them.

Not all nearby districts have taken this approach. Some are only comparing the 2018 and 2019 LOCAL levy rates – selling it as a great local levy tax reduction for voters and ignoring the state tax hike.

That’s a bit of playing loose with the overall picture – because the local rate will decrease BUT only because the state rate is increasing.

Not disclosing the state increase in levy literature doesn’t capture the complete picture for voters and has left some nearby districts under attack from voters.

Our district, though, has been up front about the overall impact from the new [combined] school funding model. They’ve used 2017 and 2019 to compare, recognizing there may be two tax pots (state and local), but they both fund our local schools and impact property owners.

One campaign member has been quite vocal about her attempt to be transparent regarding the impact. Corinne Alef has spent hours answering question after question on Facebook, not using the decreased local rate as a sales pitch. Kudos to her and her team.

The fact is taxes are going up a lot in 2018, with the majority going to education – something many on both sides of the aisle say has been underfunded for decades. In 2019, if SVSD’s EP&O levy is approved, the local levy rate will decrease by an estimated .76/1000 and taxpayers should hopefully feel some relief.

The overall tax implications have been laid out by our district. Kudos to them.

Voters have a lot to understand this levy cycle. Our district deserves recognition for presenting the big tax picture in this era of new education funding. Not all districts took the same approach.

Ballots for the February 13th SVSD replacement levies election must be dropped in a ballot drop box or mailed by February 13, 2018.

To read more about what SVSD’s proposed replacement levies will fund, read our earlier story HERE.

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