$48.5 Million in OH School Levy On Ballot

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The Oak Harbor School District proposes a replacement levy worth $48.45 million in local property taxes from 2022-2025. The levy, set for a February vote, is a 21% increase over the previous 2018-2021 levy, which will have collected $41 million when it expires.

Current Oak Harbor School District property tax levy:

Year Total Collected Est. Rate Per $1000
 2018 $9,600,000  $2.55
 2019 $10,000,000 $2.55
 2020 $10,450,000 $2.55 
 2021 $10,950,000 $2.55

Proposed Oak Harbor School District school property tax levy:

Year Total Collected Est. Rate Per $1000
 2022 $11,400,000  $2.28
 2023 $11,850,000  $2.28
 2024 $12,350,000  $2.28 
 2025 $12,850,000  $2.28

A 21% increase from $41 million to $48.5 million in local property tax revenue is aggressive considering recent state rulings in favor of increased tax funding. Washington State has added billions of dollars more to the K-12 operating budget from the state level due the McCleary Decision.

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, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex”

Following an eight-year court battle over the state’s obligation to fund schools adequately from the state level, McCleary 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.”

Teachers’ union members champion McCleary at the State Capitol.

The 21% increase comes at a financially stressed time for residents. Despite McCleary, local residents are experiencing prolonged financial hardship due to decreased economic activity. Recent reports in the housing market are also showing historic increases in property values. Local property values are steadily rising, creating further burdens if the levy passes. The proposed levy could turn into a funding boon if market conditions of low inventory persist while home values skyrocket.

Financial conditions are so poor that the federal government continues to inject billions trying to kickstart the economy. Cash infusions from the government to individuals and businesses as a result of COVID-19 are continuing well into 2021, and perhaps beyond under the new administration. The OHSD levy attempts to transfer these critical funds back into the government.

A school district levy is an “excess property tax levy“. Some years ago, before McCleary, all school levies required a 60% super-majority for voter approval. School districts whined about the state not meeting its statutory obligation under the Washington Constitution. State legislators eventually voted to place the issue on the ballot. In 2007 voters approved lowering the school levy pass rate to a 50% simple majority, and by a slim 50.61% margin at the polls. After McCleary, it’s time to reinstate the 60% super-majority for all school district excess property tax levies.

In early 2022 the school district will be coming again to the voters asking for more local property taxes. If approved, those requested property taxes – which will also amount to tens of millions of dollars – will go towards modernizing and/or rebuilding most of the district’s elementary school buildings. The 60% super-majority still exists for school construction bonds. Property taxes for school construction bonds typically remain in effect for at least the next 20 years.



1 COMMENT

  1. Amazingly, most people actually incorrectly think that these levies are still “Maintenance and Operations” levies.

    In fact, state law has changed, significantly.

    These are NO LONGER Maintenance and Operations levies!

    “In 2019, maintenance and operations levies proposed by local school districts and approved by voters were replaced by enrichment levies.” : https://dor.wa.gov/get-form-or-publication/publications-subject/tax-topics/funding-education

    The spending plan for such levies must be pre-approved by OSPI: https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.505.240

    Also: https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=84.52.0531

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