M&O levy heads list of school requests

January 5, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Issaquah School District has three levy requests before voters Feb. 9, each a replacement levy that would supplement the schools’ budget with more than $214 million by 2014 if voters approve them.

A $172.5 million maintenance and operations levy is the largest. The others are a $1.7 million transportation levy and a $40.4 million technology and critical repairs levy.

For taxpayers, the total estimated tax for all three levies and the remainder of the 2006 construction bond next year would be $4.81 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The maintenance and operations levy covers the state’s shortfall for special education, teacher salaries, highly capable learners, English language learners, Advanced Placement and honors courses, extracurricular activities and fuel for buses.

“The maintenance and operations levy is the only way the state allows the local community to directly contribute to the operating budget of the school district,” said Sara Niegowski, district communications director. “Without the M&O levy, we would see a 20 percent decrease in our operating budget. That means everything that goes into the classroom, that means salary, that means everything that goes directly into the day-to-day operations budget.”

Broken down, the money taxpayers give the district through the levy equals 360 teachers or 425 positions for custodians, bus drivers and educational assistants.

From building to building, it means the levy pays for 12 elementary school teachers and two classified employees per elementary school; 17 middle school teachers and three classified employees at each middle school; and 22 high school teachers and four classified employees at each high school.

The $172.5 million maintenance and operations levy request is an increase from the district’s original proposal of $155.5 million. School board members approved the increase Dec. 9 in anticipation of the Legislature’s possible approval of an increase in the school levy lid, the amount allowed by law.

If the Legislature doesn’t approve a levy lid lift, district officials will only collect the original $155.5 million requested.

Ballots for the Feb. 9 election are expected to reach homes Jan. 19.

Why not state funds?

Washington state’s constitution declares the state’s paramount duty is to fund education. However, districts aren’t funded adequately to support education, according to research. To help provide all that is necessary in a student’s education, like technology — which is not included in the state’s definition of education — the state allows districts to ask communities to increase their taxes via levies.

What the levy means for students

Year Students Levy amount Amount per student

1998 12,734 $11.3 million $887

1999 12,967 $13.83 million $1,067

2000 13,321 $15 million $1,126

2001 13,629 $15.75 million $1,156

2002 13,804 $16.63 million $1,204

2003 14,113 $17.94 million $1,271

2004 14,438 $18.66 million $1,292

2005 14,860 $20.02 million $1,348

2006 15,150 $22.4 million $1,479

2007 15,340 $23.47 million $1,530

2008 15,480 $26.2 million $1,693

2009 15,810 $28 million $1,771

Total levy dollars range from 17 percent to 20 percent of the district’s total revenue.

Maintenance and operations

(breakdown of fund use between 2007 and 2010)

-Classroom services: $14.9 million annually for salaries; extracurricular activities; materials; curriculum development; libraries; counseling; and supervision, safety and health services

-Basic education support services: $4.3 million annually for custodial services; building maintenance and repair; grounds/playfield maintenance; building security; utilities; and maintenance of reserves

-Special education services: $3.3 million annually for teacher, educational assistants and specialist salaries; testing materials; contractual services required to meet students’ needs; individual education plans; and out of district placement

-Student transportation: $2.75 million annually for driver salaries, fuel and maintenance

-Other grants and programs: $700,000 annually for Title I/Learning Assistance Programs and support; English Language Learners programs; language and learning programs; National Board certification; and summer school

Source: Issaquah School District

Issaquah’s levy wrap-sheet

February 1996

-Maintenance and operation levy: Passed by 60.87 percent

February 1998

-Maintenance and operation levy: Passed by 62.25 percent

-Technology levy: Failed by 55.44 percent

-Transportation levy: Failed by 54.86 percent

-Construction bond: Failed by 46.40 percent

May 1998 (left over from February 1998)

-Technology levy: Failed by 59.25 percent

-Transportation levy: Passed by 60.08 percent

-Construction bond: Failed by 55.62 percent

April 1999 (left over from February 1998)

-Technology levy: Passed by 67.82 percent

-Construction bond: Passed by 69.44 percent

February 2002: Three issues passed

-Maintenance and operation levy: 67.21 percent

-Capital projects levy: 66.92 percent

-Transportation levy: 68.42 percent

February 2006: Four issues passed

-Maintenance and operation levy: 71.96 percent

-Capital projects levy: 71 percent

-Transportation levy: 71.78 percent

-Construction bond: 67.87 percent

Source: Issaquah School District

Failed levies:

February 1971

November 1972

February 1973

February 1974

March 1975

May 1975

March 1976

June 1976

February 1998

May 1998

Source: Issaquah School District

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3 Responses to “M&O levy heads list of school requests”

  1. Doug on January 8th, 2010 12:05 pm

    Holy smokes that’s a big tax increase.

  2. Deborah Parsons on January 8th, 2010 4:47 pm

    Actually, Doug, since these levies are replacing those that we voted for in 2006, which are now expiring, this is not a tax increase. In fact, because the District’s tax base has grown over the 4 years, many homeowners will see a *decrease* in their taxes.

  3. Ray on January 18th, 2010 2:41 pm

    I read that the tax rates would not exceed this year’s taxes. But this year we are still being taxed for the capitol improvements levy from the last levy cycle. When that runs out next year won’t we actually be paying much more for the maintenance and operations of our schools. Is this correct? and if so why aren’t we being told about this up front. And what happens when the next capitol improvements levy comes out, won’t we then be paying an even higher price? I feel that the school district and it’s supporters are not totally honest about the cost of these levies.

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