Guest column: Mullet tells school board, cut levy in half, state money will be there

  • Monday, October 9, 2017 12:11pm
  • Opinion

An open letter to the Snoqualmie Valley School Board:

There has been much uncertainty spread throughout the education community about the impacts of the state’s ultimate response to the McCleary court decision. I am writing this letter for two reasons: To assure school districts that the state will very likely be responding to small, unforeseen impacts that the new education funding formula has created; and to clarify the best I can how much extra money your district will be receiving and why I consider this a huge win for our community.

My colleagues and I have heard from school districts that have legitimate concerns around special education and transportation funding sources. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has already responded to the special education concerns by sending out a letter to all districts making it clear that they can use “any and all means” to meet the demands of their special education population, which includes local levy dollars.

In terms of transportation, I am committed to passing legislation to clarify that if the state is not paying for all of your transportation needs, districts need to be allowed to use local levy dollars for this purpose until the state assumes the full funding responsibility. I have already started discussions with my colleagues in Olympia to make sure we get this technical fix passed during the 2018 legislative session.

The second reason for this letter is to clarify why I think this is a giant win for our community. We will have additional dollars flowing into our schools while we also have the opportunity to provide tax relief for our families. We are all aware of the seniors on fixed incomes, our local small business owners, and the variety of middle class families in our districts who will be appreciative of our ability to provide some modest tax relief.

The Snoqualmie Valley School district will receive an extra $20 million in state funding starting in the 2019 school year. The current local levy only produces $17 million per year in revenue. That means Snoqualmie would be able to cut their local levy in half, which would provide tax relief for your residents, and still be left with an extra $12 million in additional revenue for our students.

This is the type of home run that very few school districts in the entire state will be able to achieve.

My fear is that school districts will be too nervous about the new formula to reduce their local levies by half. I am writing this letter to make sure you know that this new money from the state will be showing up, and it will be reliable and stable.

As you consider what levy rate to ask from the voters please factor in this new large increase from the state. My goal is to provide extra dollars for our schools while providing modest tax relief to our residents. We can achieve this goal if we work together.