San Juan Island School District M&0 Levy 101 | Guest column

By Ralph Hahn

San Juan Island School District board member position 3

Voters will soon be receiving an informational mailer from the San Juan Island School District about the upcoming school levy election in April. The information contained in the mailer has been carefully reviewed and subsequently approved by the board of directors. It is a statement of facts based on reviews of the budget information available at this moment. There are several pieces of information that are different than past levy elections.

First, the name of the levy is new. In the past it was called in the Maintenance and Operations Levy (M&O levy). With the changes in the state’s financing of K-12 public education, it is now called the Educational Programs and Operations Levy.

Second, in effect this levy is a renewal of the terms and conditions of the M. & O. Levy (initially about the same amount to be collected at basically the same per thousand of assessed value). The purpose of the levy is to allow communities to provide and fund programs the state does not consider basic education and does not fund. In reality, with the new restrictions imposed by the state Legislature, in 2019-20 local levy revenue will be limited and reduced about $400,000 less than we will receive in 2018-19 in local levy support. That is based on the facts as we presently know them. We simply cannot know what future state legislatures might or might not do.

Third, contrary to what you may have heard, the state has not fully funded basic education as we define it locally. For instance, the state says that a district with 800 students should only need 39.4 teachers. To keep class sizes as low as possible and provide the same educational opportunities for our students as a much larger district, we employ 53 teachers. Those extra teachers are paid from local levy revenue. Classes like art, music, advanced placement are not considered basic education, are possible because of local levy funds. The school district remains dependent on local levy revenue to maintain the educational opportunities that the community expects and demands and students require.

Fourth, the local levy brings about $2,000,000 (projected for the 2018-19 school year) of the projected $11,000,000 budget. Imagine the impact of cutting $2,000,000 from the budget. That is the degree to which we are dependent on the local levy.

Finally, the local levy is for local use and needs. In fact, local levy revenue is collected and deposited in an account by the county treasurer and administered by the county auditor.

Finally, our community has been and is incredibly supportive of our educational system and the students for which we are responsible and we thank you. We hope that you will read and carefully consider the issues which our mailer describes.