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Levy lid hike helps Coupeville, South Whidbey schools

A recent change in state law gives school districts an opportunity to collect more money for their maintenance and operations levies.

The recently approved legislation will allow school districts to hike the maximum amount they can ask voters to approve. Before SHB 2893 became law, local voters could approve funding a maximum of 24 percent of their school district’s basic education revenue.

Now the local levy lid jumps to 28 percent. However, the change in legislation is expected to have minimal impact in Coupeville and none at all in Oak Harbor.

The Coupeville School District already collects the 24 percent maximum previously allowed by law. The school district is looking to collect a similar amount next year regardless of the levy lid lift.

“The board is leaning toward not going out and asking for more,” Superintendent Patty Page said Friday.

The Coupeville School District is scheduled to collect $2.17 million in 2010. Whenever the school district’s funding declines, then the school board typically approves a “rollback” to ensure the district doesn’t go over the 24 percent threshold. For example, the school board rolled back the levy by $158,000 to ensure the district complies with state regulations.

Now, with the change in regulations, the school district doesn’t have to approve a rollback, rather officials would collect the amount residents already greenlighted. So in that respect, levy dollars would increase.

“We would still be collecting what the voters already approved,” Page said.

The legislation increases the levy lid from 2011 through 2017. It also allows districts to seek an increase from voters for levies that are currently in effect.

Whidbey Island’s state delegation, State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island), State Rep. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) and State Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton), all voted against the legislation. Foes argued that it would help prosperous districts, while hurting many smaller rural districts that have trouble passing levies.

While the new regulations will provide a small boost to the Coupeville School District’s $10 million budget, it won’t affect the Oak Harbor School District.

The north end school district doesn’t come anywhere close to collecting the maximum levy amount allowed by law. The Oak Harbor School District’s maintenance and operations levy currently accounts for 6 percent of its revenue. Due to the military presence, the district receives substantial funding from the federal government.

The South Whidbey School District appears to have been the only district on the island to directly benefit from the regulation change. The school district ran a renewal levy earlier this year asking for the full 28 percent in the expectation that the change in law would be approve. The gamble paid off.

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