A graph that shows the increase in the estimated state revenue Bellevue School District will get and the projected amount of money from local levies, if they are passed in February. If the levies do not pass, the district will be forced to rely on state revenue and other funds only. Image courtesy of Bellevue School District

A graph that shows the increase in the estimated state revenue Bellevue School District will get and the projected amount of money from local levies, if they are passed in February. If the levies do not pass, the district will be forced to rely on state revenue and other funds only. Image courtesy of Bellevue School District

Bellevue School District tackles education funding as property tax hike, levies loom

Bellevue property owners, along with all King County property owners, will see an increase in their property taxes next year.

In an effort to fully fund education – a mandate by the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision – the Washington state Legislature upped state property taxes by 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a total of $3.04 per $1,000 of assessed value in state taxes.

But that doesn’t mean the state has fully funded education. At least not in Bellevue.

While it’s true the district will get more state funding, that funding has several strings attached. It’s earmarked for specific operations-related budget items like cost of living adjustment raises and benefits. And, if the district doesn’t meet specific requirements, like the 17 to 1 kindergarten through third grade student-teacher ratio, they could lose out on that money.

Alternatively, the new rule restricts the amount of money Bellevue School District can collect from taxpayers for local levies. Local levies currently pay for the seventh period and tutorial in middle and high schools, curriculum and technology to support STEM learning, laptops for 11,752 students, the arts, special education and other programs.

Prior to the property tax shift, the district was able to collect about 35 percent of what the state had allocated in state funding to the district the previous year. This means during the 2017-18 school year, the district will collect $65 million. Next year, however, it will reduce to $58 million and the year after to $50 million if levies proposed for the February ballot pass.

Because of that overlap, however, residents will be stuck paying a total of $5.85 per $1,000 of assessed value towards education in 2018. A reduced collection of $5.70 per $1,000 will occur in 2019 and $5.63 per $1,000 in 2020 if the levies are passed.

Yet, taxpayer fatigue is a concern.

At a Bellevue Schools Foundation presentation Tuesday, Bellevue School District Deputy Superintendent of Financial Services and Operations Melissa deVita said the state’s 96-cent increase is substantial.

“This is a huge hit to them,” she said, specifically noting senior citizens who purchased their home 40 years ago for much less money. “This is a huge hit to property owners in this district.”

Still, not passing local levies would severely reduce the district’s budget. When asked if students would feel the impact of the shift, deVita replied, “not if we pass local levies.”

The district would have some tough decisions to make if the upcoming levies don’t pass, she said.

Other districts, such as Lake Washington School District, will not feel the impact quite as drastic as Bellevue will.

DeVita said the northern district wasn’t collecting as much as Bellevue in local levies. And, it’s true that the property tax shift will help fund Eastern Washington school districts that have had trouble passing local levies.

“For our community, our increase in state property will be larger than local draws,” deVita said.

The lack of flexibility and lower amount of local levy dollars means the district will need to rely on other revenues now more than ever, they said. This means funding from the Bellevue Schools Foundation is critical if Bellevue wants to sustain its level of educational opportunities for students, deVita said.

The Bellevue School Board is expected to vote at an upcoming school board meeting on whether to put three levies on the ballot this February. The proposed levies include an Education and Operations (Enrichment) Levy, a Capital and Technology Levy and a Transportation Vehicle Levy.

For more information, visit www.bsd405.org.

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