Local school levies sent out for vote

Ballots for local school district levies are arriving in the mail all over the county for elections that will determine whether schools receive a significant source of funding that helps ensure basic operations and more extracurricular programs.

The levies apply to property taxes and are calculated based on the property’s estimated value. For example, Aberdeen’s levy amount is $5.2 million each of the next two years, and in order to reach that they estimate that the levy rate would need to be $4.31 for every $1,000 worth of property in the district.

For the owner of a $100,000 home that would mean a property tax contribution of $431 for schools. This levy would replace an existing one, meaning the existing levy would expire before the new one starts.

Locals now have the chance to vote on whether these levies should be continued. To be counted, ballots must either be postmarked by Feb. 13 or deposited at one of the designated drop-off locations around the county.

Most of these levies are replacements for expired contracts that had been in effect the past two years, with the upcoming levies covering 2018 through 2020 with the same yearly amount as before. Hoquiam superintendent Mike Villarreal said it’s important to pass the levy, as it helps cover everything from teacher salaries and textbooks to sports and music programs.

“It’s critical we receive it, because without it we wouldn’t be able to maintain our current programming, and we run a pretty tight budget,” said Villarreal, who added that there aren’t really any new programs the money will go to, as it already goes to fulfilling a wide variety of basic areas. “A lot of it has been going into student services and programs for professional development, as well as just day-to-day operations.”

The other reason this source of funding is important is that a lot of the state and federal funding — which together make up 79 percent of Hoquiam’s total income — is designated for certain areas and departments, Villarreal said. The levy money, on the other hand, can be used more freely.

“Unlike other pots of money we get from the state and federal government that are tied to specific areas, there tends to be a little more flexibility with the levy,” he said. “We will have additional money, which we can add to certain areas, but it’s only one way we can spend it, and our hands are tied in those areas.”

Villarreal said about 13 percent of Hoquiam’s budget comes from the levy, while Aberdeen’s makes up 17.3 percent, according to finance director Elyssa Louderback.

Beginning in September, the state will be modifying the way it funds public schools, and has said it would begin fully funding students’ general education costs. But some school officials are confused as to what is meant by “fully funding general education,” and how much more money they will need to make via other means when new state funding policies begin. Aberdeen superintendent Alicia Henderson said that in some regions of the state, or because of the logistics of new policies, certain school districts are actually funded less under the new laws.

“There are a lot of changes that are regional,” said Henderson, who attended a lecture recently by Cal Brodie from Educational Service District 113, to assist Grays Harbor school boards understand new policies. “For example, districts up around Puget Sound are getting funded at a higher rate than we are. And yet we still need to pay our teachers the required minimum. It makes it difficult for some districts.”

Villarreal and Henderson were both confident the levies would pass (Villarreal said Hoquiam has notably never failed to pass a levy), and added that this year’s renewal for levies isn’t particularly more important than it has been in the past. But Henderson said the uncertainty surrounding new state funding methods does make it important to pass the levy in case they end up receiving significantly less state money.

“Since we have the change in funding from the state, clearly this is a big part of the picture in terms of weathering the changes coming,” said Henderson. “Maybe in years past we had a buffer, but we definitely don’t now.”

The ballots being sent out this weekend, while primarily comprised of school district levies, also include a levy and other potential tax policies for Grays Harbor’s fire districts.

Below are a list of levy amounts and rates that residents will receive on ballots this weekend:

Aberdeen School District:

Annual rate (per $1,000 of property value) — $4.31

Collection year – 2019, 2020

Levy amount — $5.2 million per year

Hoquiam School District:

Rate — $4.95

Collection year — 2018, 2019, 2020

Levy amount — $2,975,750 per year for two collection cycles (2018/2019 and 2019/2020)

North Beach School District:

Rate — $1.31

Collection year — 2019, 2020

Levy amount — $1,900,742 per year

Elma School District:

Rate — $3.15

Collection year — 2019, 2020

Levy amount — $2,514,435 per year

McCleary School District:

Rate — $3.15

Collection year — 2019, 2020

Levy amount — $800,000 per year

Mary M. Knight School District:

Rate — $3.08

Collection year — 2019, 2020

Levy amount — $505,862 per year

Taholah School District:

Rate — $9.10

Collection year — 2018, 2019, 2020

Levy amount — $150,000 per year for two collection cycles (2018/2019 and 2019/2020).

Lake Quinault School District:

Rate — $1.50

Collection year — 2018, 2019

Levy amount — $204,509 per year