State House votes to halt planned cut in school levy rates

OLYMPIA — The state House acted Monday to prevent school districts from seeing a critical stream of their revenue dry up while lawmakers sort out a long term strategy for fully funding education.

On a 62-35 vote, the House agreed to push back a planned cut in school levy rates for one year, a move intended to give district officials certainty that they won’t face a potential loss of millions of dollars while budgeting for next school year.

“We need to listen to the families, children and school leaders. Right now they’re scared,” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, and member of the House Education Committee. “Passing this bill can at least give them some assurances moving forward.”

Twelve Republicans, including Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, joined the entire Democratic caucus to pass the measure, House Bill 1059.

“One year is it for me. We’ve got to fix McCleary this year,” Harmsworth said.

Opponents contend the bill is a cop-out. They said lawmakers agreed last year to not do anything with the so-called levy cliff until April 30 to keep the focus of the session on solving the problem. Passing the one-year extension amounts to a concession they won’t figure it out, foes said.

“School districts do need certainty and until we get our budget done and until we have a McCleary solution, they aren’t going to have certainty,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama.

The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate where it is unlikely to be acted on anytime soon.

“While I can appreciate the House expressing its concern over the levy cliff, making a property tax extension outside of a broader K-12 solution may complicate finding a solution,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said in a statement.

Most school districts use a share of their local property tax levies to help pay teachers, staff and administrators, as well as some expenses of basic education for students. In 2010, amid the recession, lawmakers agreed to let districts, with voter approval, increase the levy rate while the Legislature figured out how to amply fund public schools. Lawmakers now face a court order to do it by next year.

Under the original law, the levy rates are supposed to roll back to the prior levels at the end of 2017.

Collectively, school districts around the state could lose out on $358.3 million in the 2018 calendar year if that happens, according to a fiscal analysis prepared by legislative staff. Of the total, $250.8 million would be local property tax dollars and $107.5 million would be from state coffers in the form of local effort assistance, also known as levy equalization.

Everett School District officials estimate $3.3 million in levy receipts and another $500,000 in levy equalization are at stake for the school year which runs from Sept. 1, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2018. When calibrated for the 2018 calendar year, the potential loss could reach $10.3 million, district officials said.

“Delaying the levy cliff is a good common sense action to avoid disrupting school operations while the legislators get to a solution,” Everett schools Superintendent Gary Cohn said after the vote.

The Edmonds School District faces a loss of roughly $7 million in revenues for the next school year and almost $15 million over the course of 2018. Officials are penciling out the possibility of crafting two budgets, one that accounts for less money and one presuming the state keeps its word to fully fund the cost of basic education in the district.

Superintendent Kristine McDuffy said Monday’s vote “is a good sign. Obviously our number one priority is to have this addressed.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; Twitter @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

The oldest known meteor shower, Lyrid, will be falling across the skies in mid- to late April 2024. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Clouds to dampen Lyrid meteor shower views in Western Washington

Forecasters expect a storm will obstruct peak viewing Sunday. Locals’ best chance at viewing could be on the coast. Or east.

Everett police officers on the scene of a single-vehicle collision on Evergreen Way and Olivia Park Road Wednesday, July 5, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Photo provided by Everett Police Department)
Everett man gets 3 years for driving high on fentanyl, killing passenger

In July, Hunter Gidney crashed into a traffic pole on Evergreen Way. A passenger, Drew Hallam, died at the scene.

FILE - Then-Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., speaks on Nov. 6, 2018, at a Republican party election night gathering in Issaquah, Wash. Reichert filed campaign paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Friday, June 30, 2023, to run as a Republican candidate. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
6 storylines to watch with Washington GOP convention this weekend

Purist or pragmatist? That may be the biggest question as Republicans decide who to endorse in the upcoming elections.

Keyshawn Whitehorse moves with the bull Tijuana Two-Step to stay on during PBR Everett at Angel of the Winds Arena on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
PBR bull riders kick up dirt in Everett Stampede headliner

Angel of the Winds Arena played host to the first night of the PBR’s two-day competition in Everett, part of a new weeklong event.

Simreet Dhaliwal speaks after winning during the 2024 Snohomish County Emerging Leaders Awards Presentation on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Simreet Dhaliwal wins The Herald’s 2024 Emerging Leaders Award

Dhaliwal, an economic development and tourism specialist, was one of 12 finalists for the award celebrating young leaders in Snohomish County.

In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, Ben Garrison, of Puyallup, Wash., wears his Kel-Tec RDB gun, and several magazines of ammunition, during a gun rights rally at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
With gun reform law in limbo, Edmonds rep is ‘confident’ it will prevail

Despite a two-hour legal period last week, the high-capacity ammunition magazine ban remains in place.

Everett Fire Department and Everett Police on scene of a multiple vehicle collision with injuries in the 1400 block of 41st Street. (Photo provided by Everett Fire Department)
1 in critical condition after crash with box truck, semi in Everett

Police closed 41st Street between Rucker and Colby avenues on Wednesday afternoon, right before rush hour.

The Arlington Public Schools Administration Building is pictured on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
$2.5M deficit in Arlington schools could mean dozens of cut positions

The state funding model and inflation have led to Arlington’s money problems, school finance director Gina Zeutenhorst said Tuesday.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.