San Juan School District levy up for renewal

San Juan Island School District is on a mission, and they want voters to understand why.

The Educational Programs and Operations Levy is up for renewal on the Feb. 8 ballot and its passage will provide the school district with funding for lights, plumbing, classroom supplies, and educational programs. Without its renewal, the district stands to lose 16% of its funding and, according to District Superintendent Fred Woods, it will require cuts to programs and support for students.

Sarah Werling, who chairs the SJI School District Committee, said, “As a committee, we would like voters to understand that the district’s request for funding is based on need, not want, and that educating our students — from our youngest … to our ‘almost adults’— takes focused work and adequate funding.”

According to the San Juan District Enrichment Levy FAQ sheet, “In 2018, the legislature reduced how much can be levied locally; from 20% previously to 16% this year, as determined by student enrollment. A $2,500 per student base was established in 2019. In 2021 the legislature considered a proposal to increase the base to $3,000/student. The levy request is the amount needed to maintain existing programs and services for the next four years based on a return of student enrollment to the pre-COVID enrollments, and the potential of an increase to $3,000/student.”

The Educational Programs and Operations Levy is not a new tax, and the amount of the levy is based solely on enrollment, not property values. Further, the district cannot collect more than the qualifying amount determined by enrollment and per-pupil levels. Plus, it provides no monies for teacher salaries, which are funded through the state.

Superintendent Fred Woods explained the current apportionment level is a base of $2,500 per student. “However,” he said, “in the next four years if the state legislature raises the level to $3,000 base per pupil, we need the voters’ approval to collect the proper per-pupil funding level.”

According to Werling, “The cost to the homeowner of a $500,000 home is actually a lower mill rate than in prior years and is less than the current rate of inflation. This year’s rate was calculated by the county after the district mailer went to residents,” she said.

The rate is .6777 per thousand of assessed valuation for 2023; .7251 for 2024; .7766 for 2025 and .8317 for 2026.

Both Woods and Werling underscored the impact the pandemic has had on the amount of state funding the school received because of lost enrollment.

“Some students, in an abundance of caution, have chosen homeschooling because of COVID-19. Moving forward, it is important for the district to be well-equipped to and able to provide students with a meaningful learning experience,” Werling said.

Woods added: “As we have all discovered, it is easy for systems to become derailed in a pandemic. We must not fail our children as they continue to grow and learn. As adults, we are responsible for educating the next generation. Our children are counting on us for their future, and we are counting on them for the future of our community.”

For more information about the levy, a revised Levy Renewal Fact Sheet is available at