The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

'Levy Cliff' Measure Signed Into Law

Local levy collections are extended while waiting for state school-funding increase

 


DAYTON—Last week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5023, the “levy cliff” measure, into law.

The bill extends the safety net for local levy collections an additional year. According to local school officials, this was needed because the State Legislature has reduced the amount of money local school districts can collect from voter-approved M&O levies, in anticipation of full funding for basic education, as ordered by the State Supreme Court, in the McCleary ruling.

“The bill is a plus,” said Dayton School Superintendent Doug Johnson. “It does let us know the legislature will not reduce our local collection until 2019, and that, certainly by that time, the legislature will have in place a funding mechanism that would support our basic education needs.”

In Dayton, the reduction in local levy collection would have resulted in a loss in 2018 of nearly $55,000. Additional reductions would occur each year until the local levy amount allowed to be collected was met.

Johnson said that based on the current levy authority figures, Dayton would only have been allowed to collect about $478,000 from local taxpayers, and none of that could have been spent on basic education expenditures, such as teachers, administrators, counselors or other support personnel.

“There are still many questions, however, even with the passage of the bill,” said Johnson.

He pointed to issues around a new requirement that school districts report to the state how levy dollars are spent, a new requirement that districts ask permission from the state to run a levy, and the possible inability to use levy dollars to support basic education needs, which are not currently being met by the state.

“This could be a positive step, but certainly there is much more work to be done,” Johnson said.

 

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