This February, voters will decide the fate of their local school districts as they vote on education bonds and levies that provide critical funding for their schools.
Over a decade ago, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state was failing to fully fund education, therefore violating its constitutional duty. As a result, Washington State was fined $100,000 a day until it was able to meet its funding requirements.
Since then, Washington has poured billions into education, but school districts are still seeking funding for critical services. Districts have resorted to local bonds and levies, which comprise large portions of their general budgets.
Local educational levies fund anywhere between 7% and 18% of a school district’s general fund, despite the state “fully funding” education. For Everett and Edmonds, levies comprise roughly 15% of their general funding. For Marysville, levies comprise nearly 18% of the general funding.
These levies often fund critical staff, including school nurses, counselors, teaching assistants, technology support staff, and custodians. Levies also fund special education, extracurriculars, and elective classes and programs, such as STEM and advanced placement classes.
Multiple school districts will vote on February to renew Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) levies, as well as capital or technology levies. The funds are collected through property taxes, and each district will vote to replace existing levies, all of which expire in 2022.
Though most are replacement levies, some districts will see taxes rise as budget requirements have increased since the pandemic began in 2020. Residents of Mukilteo, Edmonds, and Everett school districts can expect to pay small increases in property taxes to replace their existing EPO levies.
The actual cost of these levies is measured as a dollar amount for every $1,000 in a property’s assessed value. The levies must pass in a 50% plus one vote.
(2023 rate / $1,000
(2023 rate / assessed value)
|2023 Total rate /
$1,000 assessed value
*Northshore will also be voting on a $425,000,000 capital projects bond which would add an additional $1.43/$1,000 in assessed value to residents’ total property taxes each year. The bond will need at least 60% of voter support to pass.
School districts may rely more heavily on the upcoming levies this year as enrollment numbers have decreased. With enrollment drops come budget cuts, despite budgets going up as a result of the pandemic. According to State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, Washington school districts can expect a collective loss of $500 million in state funding in the next annual budget.
In a recent press conference, however, Reykdal implored legislators to avoid slashing budgets in response to a “blip in enrollment,” one which he believes is temporary. He added that he believes further changes must be made to correct the school funding process.
“Our capital budget system is broken,” Reykdal said.
Nine districts in the region have seen more than a blip in enrollment this school year, despite massive reopening measures in 2021. Mukilteo, Edmonds, Everett, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Marysville, Northshore, Arlington, and Monroe have seen a collective drop of roughly 7,654 students in total.
“We utilized ESSER funding last year to mitigate some of the funding challenges resulting from a decline in enrollment,” Edmonds Communications Manager Harmony Weinberg told the Lynnwood Times. “State apportionment received was approximately $7.2 million below budget in 2020–21.”
With state funding up in the air, local levies could make or break the budgets of Washington school districts in the coming school years. Without the levies, all districts can expect cutbacks in available programs, extracurriculars, and critical staff.
Ballots will be mailed on January 20. Local residents can read more about the EPO and capital levies on their school district’s website.