The value of island education is once again going to the ballot box.
The San Juan Island School District is seeking the renewal of their property tax levy in the April 24 special election. We urge islanders to vote yes.
In the March 28 edition of the Journal, we discussed how property owners are facing a tax hike because Washington lawmakers passed a bill to “fully fund” basic public education.
You might ask, why is the local school district looking for funds in the wake of state assistance?
The state’s idea was that by doling out more dollars to San Juan, the district won’t have to depend on raising local money. The problem is that this state-wide ruling prevents areas with high property values like San Juan County from generating more local tax revenue than areas with lower property values. Overall this creates a more equitable funding system statewide but leaves the San Juan district’s 2019 projected revenue about $400,000 less than what the levy brought in the year before.
Locals’ property taxes are rising, but all of the revenue isn’t staying on the island.
According to school board documents, the new levy revenue will cover 17 percent of what the state deems is outside of its duties to fund “basic” public education. For SJISD, this includes items the district is already providing today, such as summer school, after-school programs, classes for music, art, advanced placement class and special education, and additional teachers to ensure smaller classroom sizes.
The language on ballots will request the highest taxable amount at about 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, but according to the school board the district will most likely never use the maximum rate.
This levy is a needed source of revenue in paving a brighter road for island youth.