Educational Programs and Operations Levy
Special Election  ||  February 13th, 2018

On February 13, 2018 voters in the Deer Park School District will be asked to renew the Educational Programs and Operations levy, which expires in 2018. Presently, approximately 16% of Deer Park School District’s annual budget is funded through the approval of local levy collections.

Thanks for taking a moment to learn more about how the Educational Programs and Operations Levy supports programs and people in Deer Park Schools. In the information below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the Educational Programs and Operations levy. Additionally, further details are available in an information brief available for download by CLICKING HERE. If you would like to speak with someone regarding the upcoming levy election, please call either Superintendent Travis Hanson (e-mail) at 464-5507 or the District’s Business Manager Shauna Ferguson (e-mail) at 464-5506.

FAQ

Answers to a number of frequently asked questions about the Educational Programs and Operations Levy.

(click on any of the questions below for more information)

How often do we vote for the Educational Programs and Operations levy?

The last levy election was in 2015. Like many area school districts, Deer Park School District operates on a 3-year levy cycle. Thus, levy elections are held every three years and are necessary to renew the expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy. In Deer Park, approximately 16% of the District’s total revenues are provided by our local levy and state levy assistance. Deer Park School District voters have a long tradition of supporting Deer Park schools through the passing of an Educational Programs and Operations Levy. It is important to note that without taxpayer support of the district through approval of the local levy, the district is not eligible to collect state levy equalization dollars.

Does the Educational Programs and Operations Levy represent a new tax?

No, the Educational Programs and Operations levy is not a new tax. In February of 2015, Deer Park voters renewed an expiring three-year levy to be collected through 2018. As that levy is set to expire next year, we are simply asking voters to renew the Educational Programs and Operations levy for 2019, 2020, and 2021. If this three year Educational Programs and Operations levy is approved, voters would not be asked to approve another renewal levy until the spring of 2021.

What does the Educational Programs and Operations levy pay for?

The money collected through the Educational Programs and Operations levy makes up the difference between what it costs to operate schools and what the State actually provides to school districts. People are often surprised at long list of people and programs supported by levy dollars. Examples of people, programs, and items supported in whole or part by local levy funds include a number of classified and certificated staff positions district-wide, sports programs, co-curricular programs (like music programs), college-in-the-classroom, computer replacement and repair, classrooms supplies, equipment for playgrounds as well as for district maintenance, utilities costs, insurance, fuel.  The fact is that while State funding does provide districts with a basic level of funding, the actual costs a district incurs on a yearly basis far exceed the amount that State funding provides.

Is it true that the existence of extra-curricular and activities programs are dependent on local levy dollars?

Absolutely! The state provides NO funding for extra-curricular activities.  A portion of the funds collected through an Educational Programs and Operations Levy provides funding for coaches, advisors, equipment, as well as event expenses for all extra-curricular activities. Additionally, co-curricular programs (i.e. – music, band, cheerleading, drama) and field trip opportunities are supported through the collection of local levy funds.

These school programs allow students, who may not otherwise have the opportunity, to take part in activities that are personally meaningful and fulfilling. Local levy dollars support the continued existence of these programs that are incredibly valuable in the educational experience of so many children.

What happens if the Educational Programs & Operations levy doesn't pass?

Without levy funds, the District’s operating budget would be reduced (by approximately 16%) and programs and positions may be cut. District administrators would work closely with the Board to identify where cuts/program reductions would be made as well as any other necessary adjustments in expenditures in order to balance the district’s budget.

The simple fact is that the loss of levy funding would have a significant impact on educational programs and jobs throughout our entire school system. Additionally, seeing that co-curricular and extra-curricular programs are 100% dependent on levy dollars, these programs would most likely be casualties of a levy failure. As one of Deer Park’s largest employers, a failed levy would certainly have a significant impact on the local economy.

Districts often say that "levies support learning" - what does that mean? What are some examples of this?

The Educational Programs & Operations Levy makes possible a number of important district programs and helps the school district pay for items that provide significant enhancements to things like staffing, materials, and technology. Deer Park Schools uses levy funding to:

  • reduce class size through increased staffing. Levy dollars allow us to reduce the average size of a K-6 classroom.
  • maintain para-educator support — para-educators are vital in the daily operations of our schools and support learning in many ways in each of our buildings.
  • provide updated materials for core curricular areas. In the past few years we’ve been able to improve curriculum in reading and add a number of STEM programs.
  • hire certified specialists in PE, music, and art.
  • equip our classrooms with up-to-date technology: the expansion of wireless access throughout the district as well as an increase in the number of devices to enhance instruction has had a significant impact on teaching and learning.
  • support the high school credit retrieval program that in the 2013-14 school year helped students recover 142 credits to help them graduate.
  • support college-in-the-classroom to offer students access to 18 courses representing a total of 78 possible college credits — right on the DPHS campus.
  • provides advanced opportunities for students through Project Lead the Way, including pre-engineering at the middle school, and both engineering and bio-medical sciences at the high school.
What is levy equalization/local effort assistance?

The concept of “levy equalization,” also referred to as Local Effort Assistance (LEA), stems from the desire of the state to provide equity between the school districts located in the “property rich” areas of the state and school districts located in areas where the property assessments are lower than the state average. Local Effort Assistance provides support to communities that would otherwise pay excessive tax rates compared to what “property rich” communities around the State would pay (Deer Park falls into this category).

In the Deer Park School District, when taxpayers pass the local Educational Programs and Operations levy, the district gains an estimated $2 million annually in additional assistance provided by levy equalization.  With that said, it is vital to understand that districts must pass their local levy in order to get this funding – if a district’s local levy does not pass, the District loses out on additional State funds provided via levy equalization.

What's the difference between an Educational Programs and Operations Levy, a Capital Levy, and Bonds?

An Educational Programs & Operations Levy is a local property tax, authorized by voters, used to operate educational programs for students and maintain facilities. Often, school districts say that “levies are for learning” as levy funds provide funding for administration, teachers, support staff, and resources necessary to operate many school programs. The upcoming levy will be a “renewal levy” because it renews previous taxes levied on property owners by voter approval. In the upcoming election (February 13, 2018) voters are being asked to consider only a Educational Programs & Operations Levy.

Capital Levy is a mix between an M & O Levy and a Bond election and can only be spent on “things,” rather than on people or educational programs.  Many school districts use Capital Levies to address facilities needs where construction needs really don’t need to be funded through Bonds (typically very large dollar amounts). Capital levies could be for such things as carpeting, roof replacements, upgrades to athletic facilities, or to replacing aging equipment.

Voter approved Bonds provide funding to pay for large scale construction or modernization of buildings and facilities.  Bonds cannot be used to operate schools or pay for student programs; it is probably easiest to think of bonds like a home mortgage; they are incurred debt and are generally carried for a period of 10 to 20 years. The DPHS modernization project completed in 2010 was paid for using bond funds.

Are administrators salaries paid out of the levy?

Yes, at least partially. Administrative salaries are supplemented by local levy dollars. Local levy dollars make up the difference between what the state provides to the district for administrative salaries and what the district’s administrators are actually paid. That said, the largest amount of salaries funded by the levy are for teachers and other support staff, since the state does not fully fund teacher, administrative, or support staff positions and salaries. Each year, levy dollars pay for certificated staff members that help to keep class sizes at desirable levels and to provide well-rounded program offerings; levy dollars also pay for coaches, secretaries and other “classified” staff such as instructional assistants; the smallest percentage of local levy dollars help pay for administrative salaries, including principals, assistant principals, and central office administrators who serve all schools. Administrator salaries make up about 4% of our budget – we strive to keep this number low by staffing administrators at, or slightly below, the state formula levels.

 

Can you explain how levy rates are determined and how it's linked to the assessed valuation of my property?

Property taxes are the primary funding source for Washington’s public schools. There are two types of property tax levies supporting the states school system: the state school levy paid by all Washington property owners for public schools and special “local” levies approved by voters for a specified school district. Revenues from special levies may only be used for that school district.

Local levies are set for a fixed dollar amount, for example: $2,000,000.  The county will only collect that much, regardless of whether property values go up or down.  If all property values go up, then a smaller rate per thousand is assessed to collect that $2,000,000.  As new houses and businesses are built and there are more taxpayers, everyone’s piece of the $2,000,000 gets smaller as it’s shared by more people — the district does not receive more.

I've heard that levy tax exemptions are available to senior citizens - is that true?

Yes. Senior citizens and disabled citizens may be eligible for an exemption for all or part of levy collection when specific income criteria are met. The exemption applies to the primary residence and land on which it sits, up to one acre (up to five acres are allowed if zoning permits it). For application and further information, you can download the Washington State Dept. of Revenue FACT SHEET, or call (509) 477-5754 in Spokane County and (509) 684-6161 in Stevens County.

SCHOOL FUNDING BASICS

Understanding basic education funding, local enrichment levies, and the realities of state revenue for public schools.

What follows is a quick read (and great oversimplification!) regarding how schools are funded in Washington and some basic information about how that affects our fiscal reality in Deer Park School District. If you would like more detailed information about Deer Park School District’s sources of revenue as well as its expenditures, please download our CITIZEN’S GUIDE TO THE BUDGET.  Thanks to the Lake Washington School District for many of the facts and insights that make up the basis of the information that follows.

Washington’s Basic Education Act:
Passed in 1977, the Basic Education Act defines formulas used to fund a basic education for school districts in Washington state and thus what the state will pay for. The intent was that local levies would be used to pay for extras in a school district – enhancements that local taxpayers wanted to fund above and beyond “the basics” of day to day education.

Funding for operations is capped:
Basic education funding from the state, otherwise known as state general education funds, makes up 67% percent of the 2017-18 budget for our district. For just about every district in the state, general education funds make up the majority of its annual revenues.

Generally speaking, the various elements of the current funding system were put into place so that access to education remained relatively equal across the state:  the idea was that students in a poor area of Washington should not receive an education substantially worse than students in a more affluent area of our state. As a result, districts are limited in how much money they can raise through local levies (what was previously called a “local levy lid,” is now a limitation on the local levy rate – $1.50).

Local levy dollars come from property taxes and provide additional money for enrichment programs as well as general operations. Local levy dollars were intended to provide schools with a revenue source for the “extras” – that is, for staffing or programming beyond what is provided in state basic education funds. Unfortunately, in recent years, local levies have come to be used for things that most people now expect schools to offer, rather than “extras” beyond what’s funded through state basic education funding. For example, the state funds five periods in high school but students need at least six periods to get the mix of core and elective classes that prepare them to be college and career ready. Local levy dollars pay for that sixth period in Deer Park Schools (and in just about every other school district in our state). Additionally, local levy dollars pay for a number of certificated and classified staff positions, technology, security enhancements, and general costs of keeping school buildings open among many other items. Local levy dollars are the sole source of extra and co-curricular programs in Deer Park. This revenue source represents about 16% (8% local collections, 8% state funded levy equalization) of Deer Park School District’s annual operating budget.

Increasingly, state dollars are provided through what are called state categorical funds, those earmarked for specific purposes such as special education, transportation, and English Language Learner education. These dollars are not available for use in other programs for other purposes.

Federal dollars are relatively few:  about 7% of the district’s operating budget comes from the federal government. That money is also earmarked for specific purposes, such as special education, Title I (educational support for low-income students), Title II (teacher training and Highly Qualified support), as well as support for free and reduced prices lunches.

If state general funds, state earmarked funds and local levy dollars do not cover the costs of running a school district, there are few legal options for the district to raise more money. School districts can charge fees for some programs, like extended day, athletics or school lunches, but the ability to charge money is also limited:  students are guaranteed a free education.

Money for building schools and buying big items (buses, technology) is raised through separate ballot measures such as capital levies and bonds. These dollars can only be spent on that specific purpose. They can’t be transferred to the general operating fund to pay for something else. So a district can’t, for example, decide to use money from a technology levy earmarked for new computers to pay for more teachers: that would be illegal. Schools also can’t decide to use the money set aside for modernizing schools to pay for anything in the general operating budget, like staffing, supplies or textbooks.

Since Basic Education was defined in 1979, though, the world has changed and the requirements for education have changed. Schools are held accountable for their performance through state-defined standards. They must adhere to the No Child Left Behind requirements.

At the same time, Washington’s national ranking for per pupil funding has dropped to 34th in the country, or 45th if adjusted for cost of living. Washington also has the nation’s fifth-largest class sizes and is below average on teacher compensation.