Granite Falls School District Replacement Levy Election
Ballots must be postmarked on or before February 11
The Granite Falls School District Board of Directors will run two levies on the February 11th election.
This is not a new tax. The district is not asking for more money. The cost will be approximately the same as what taxpayers are currently paying. The School Board did not increase the levy amount due to the economic issues we all face.
The replacement School Programs and Operation Levy provides funding for “day to day” expenses such as textbooks, school bus transportation, library books, staff support such as class advisors and coaches, daily upkeep and maintenance to all facilities and grounds, and utilities (heat/phones) and insurance.
• The replacement Technology and School Improvements Levy provides funds for technology upgrades (computer hardware, software, applications, licensing, etc) or large maintenance repairs such as painting a school.
• The levies are not a new tax. The replacement levies will collect funds for 2013 and 2014 to “renew” the levies that expire December 31, 2014 - think of a magazine subscription that needs to be “renewed”. Levy funding is used for “day to day” expenses much like a household budget for groceries or paying the phone bill.
The levies are divided into two separate issues for one simple reason – the District can capture state funds from the sale of timber within the District (approximately $50,000 more per year). If the levies were combined into one, the District would lose those additional funds.
Granite Falls School District Business Director Mike Sullivan commented, “The levy dollars represent 23 percent of our daily operating budget. It continues to be a difficult time for the community to come up with money for schools, so by leaving the total amount that the district collects the same, we can minimize the impact on the taxpayer while maintaining the operations of the school district.”
The state does not fully fund basic education, so school districts ask voters to help pay for textbooks, transportation, utilities, and technology up-grades for student learning through voter approved “levies.” School districts get the bulk of their operating revenue from three main sources: the state, the federal government, and from local property tax levies. The state funds approximately 70 percent of the district’s operating budget. The federal government pays another 7 percent. Consequently, the levies pay for 23 percent of the district’s daily operating budget.
How does a school levy work?
When a school district places a levy measure before voters, it is asking for the authority to collect a specific amount of money from local property taxes for a set period of time, usually four years in the case of Educational Maintenance and Operations levies or six years in the case of capital levies. Levies are approved if the ballot measure receives support from a majority of voters.
What happens when a levy expires?
When a levy expires, the school district can no longer collect the money through taxes, which means the programs and activities funded by that levy will no longer have that money. Levies work something like a magazine subscription, which is why school districts go back to voters every so often to ask that levies be renewed. As a levy is about to expire, the school district will typically go back to voters and ask to have the expiring levy replaced by a new levy.
What is the difference between levy money and bond money?
Voter approved bond money can only be used to build schools, buy property, or for major modernization projects to schools. The most recent bond issued approved by voters in 2005 built the new High School that opened in December 2007. Voters have also passed bond issues in the past to build Mountain Way and Monte Cristo Elementary schools and remodel the old High School and current Middle School. Bond money cannot be used for daily operations such as employee salaries, transportation, co-curricular activities, or textbooks.
WATCH a short YouTube to learn more about levies vs. bond.
When is the election?
Every eligible voter should have received a ballot in the mail this week (approximately around January 27). You can vote and return your ballot as soon as you receive it, but all ballots must be postmarked on or before February 11, which is the official election date.
What will the two replacement levies pay for?
The levies will pay for a portion of many programs and services which are not fully funded by the state. Examples include:
• Textbooks, library books, and classroom supplies
• School bus transportation
• Music and athletic equipment
• Computer hardware, software, applications, licensing and other needs for student learning
• Staff support such as class advisors, academic team advisors, and coaches salaries
• Large maintenance needs such as painting a school or a new roof
• Utilities (heat, lights) and insurance
• Upkeep and maintenance of all facilities and grounds
Are the replacement levies a new tax?
No. The levies you are voting on February 11 will be for the 2015-2018 years and replace the levies that expire at the end of this year, December 31, 2014. This is not a new tax but a replacement of the existing levies. The district is not asking for more money. These levies are to continue, or “renew” the current levies.
Does the state provide additional funds for the replacement levies?
Yes, the levies are two separate issues for one reason - to capture additional state funding from the sale of timber within the District. By separating the levies, the District will receive an average $50,000 more per year from the state. The state only provides the additional money on the replacement Technology Levy so the District separates the levies in order to capture the state funding. If the levies were combined into one, the District would lose that additional state money.
What will the replacement levies cost me?
The replacement levies will cost approximately the same as taxpayers are currently paying. The School Board did not increase the levy amount due to the economic issues we all face.
What is the tax rate?
The tax rate is a number that is used to calculate how much a person will pay in property taxes. The tax rate is expressed in the number of dollars one will pay for each $1,000 of their property’s value. For more information on how the tax rate works, See TAX RATES for an illustrated example, or watch a short Youtube Video, TAX RATE VIDEO for a more detailed explanation.
How do I calculate my projected individual combined levy tax rate for the 2015-2018 if the levies are approved?
____________ $1,000 = _____________ X $4.17 (total local school tax) = ____________ (your home value)
If property values go up, does that mean the school district will collect more money than it expected?
No. A levy is for a specific dollar amount. The school district cannot collect more money than what was approved by voters. Voters are asked to fund a fixed dollar amount. That amount is spread evenly across all taxpayers in the district, based on the total assessed valuation of the district. The total amount the district receives does not change when property values change.
Do my taxes decrease if more people move into the district?
Yes. As the population of Granite Falls increases, the cost of school taxes to each homeowner decreases. The amount collected cannot change, so as more people move into our area, costs are reduced for everyone. For example, if you need $10.00 and have 10 people, you would need $1.00 from each person. If you have 20 people, you would only need 50 cents from each person.
Can money from different funds be combined to help out if there is a shortfall?
No. School districts cannot combine funds. School districts have four main funding categories: General fund, ASB fund, Capital Projects fund, and Debit Service fund. The General fund is dedicated to school operations such as salaries, transportation, food service, grounds/maintenance, and utilities (heat/lights); the ASB fund can only be used to support student co-curricular activities (student clubs, athletics, etc.); the Capital Projects fund is for small remodel projects or a new roof; and the Debit Service fund is to repay bond payments. Those funds cannot be intermingled. For example, if we have $20,000 in the Capital Projects fund to upgrade a heating system at a school, we cannot take that money and use it to pay for teacher salaries.
What kind of impacts can the legislative session have on school budgets?
The legislators have a direct impact on school budgets. The state constitution says the state’s paramount duty is to fund “basic” education. In 2001, Washington State voters approved Initiative 728 (I-728) to provide funds to local school districts to help reduce class size. That funding was about $1,000,000 but the I-728 funding is now eliminated. All too frequently, the legislative session will include mandates to school districts with no known funding source. That means the district must find a way to pay for programs or services the state requires, but does not allocate any funding for the new program or service.
Will enrollment also affect the budget?
An enrollment decline may also dictate reductions in staff. Remember, the state provides approximately $5,060.40 for every full time equivalent (FTE) student, so if the enrollment declines the amount of funding from the state is also reduced.
Can senior citizens and disabled people qualify for school tax exemptions?
Yes, if you are 62 or older or disabled, you may qualify for partial or full exemptions from voter approved levy (and bond) issues if your household income is limited. The application process is a simple, one page form - call the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office, 425.388.3433, for the application and qualification requirements.
Can we expect things to get better next year?
The financial outlook for Washington State has been stabilizing and the state is starting to increase the funding it has reduced over the last five years. It will take the state several years to recover from the budget shortfall. Again, our priorities will remain student programs and services for academic achievement, to maintain a fund balance and to live within our means.
More info at http://www.gfalls.wednet.du/info_district/funding.html