Say “no” to the Oak Harbor School District levy. The school district wants local property owners to hand them $48.4 million over the next four years to operate the schools.
This is money the school district really doesn’t need: Washington state recently added billions of dollars more to the K-12 operating budget from the state level.
Article IX, Section 1 of the Washington Constitution says, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”
Following an eight-year court battle, the McCleary decision resulted in a huge infusion of money from the state level into the K-12 budget, prompting the state’s largest teachers’ union to celebrate, stating: “Because of McCleary, state funding for K-12 basic education has increased by billions of dollars, including billions for competitive and professional educator compensation. In 2016-2018, WEA members in school districts across the state negotiated historic pay increases for both certificated and classified education support professionals.”
The school district calls this a “replacement” levy, which is a disingenuous spin on its part.
Voters handed the school district a property tax levy four years ago. Property values have increased significantly since then. Zillow estimates property values have increased by 35 percent in Island County over the last four years. The school district explains “… the approximate rate per $1,000 is $2.28. This is the same rate currently being collected.”
However, this new levy over four years is for $48.4 million, while the previous levy was for $41 million. So, this would be a huge increase over the previous levy. The school district telling people that the “tax rate” would be the same is a purposely misleading “spin.”
The school district levy is an excess property tax levy. Some years ago, before McCleary, all school levies required a 60 percent supermajority to pass at the polls. School districts whined about the state not meeting its statutory obligation under the state constitution. State legislators eventually voted to place the issue on the ballot, and in 2007 voters approved doing so by a slim 50.61 percent margin.
After McCleary, it’s time to reinstate the 60 percent supermajority for all school district excess property tax levies.