WOODLAND — The existing three-year Operations and Maintenance Levy for Woodland Public Schools expires next year. In order to maintain existing high-quality school services and educational programs, the district will need a replacement levy to supply the funds necessary to continue current operations.
Many community members often hear the term “levy,” but may not fully understand what it means, why school districts need levies and what levies fund. This information seeks to answer many of the questions residents may have about what levies are and how they support quality schools.
A levy is a request by a school district of voters to continue to collect property taxes for a limited number of years to fund operations costs. Although there are different types of levies, the most common is referred to as an Operations and Maintenance Levy or Maintenance and Operations Levy (often called an M&O levy).
Operations and Maintenance levies bridge the gap between state and federal funding and what it actually costs to operate schools. The Woodland Public Schools current three-year Operations and Maintenance Levy expires in 2017 and provides more than 16 percent of the funds needed to operate the Woodland Public Schools.
Levy funds support basic day-to-day operations, including the cost of additional teachers, instructional assistants, and other staff; textbooks and classroom supplies; bilingual and special education services; student activities such as athletics, drama and music; and professional development and training for teachers.
Washington school districts receive funding from the state and federal government. In Woodland, state and federal funds pay for about 75 percent of the total education costs in Woodland. Other non-tax sources amount to just less than 8 percent of the district’s revenue. The local levy dollars bridge the nearly 17 percent gap between what the state pays and the actual costs of operating our schools so the district can provide the quality educational experience currently offered to the community’s students.
Recently, the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington state is legally obligated by its constitution to fully fund education with the “McCleary Decision.” Although the Supreme Court retains the power to uphold and enforce the constitutional mandate for “ample funding,” the court cannot pass bills that create taxes, and the state legislature has yet to enact the necessary changes to fully fund schools. In addition, major cuts to school funding that occurred during the recession have not yet been fully replaced. According to district officials, the state does not fully fund the education programs critical to overall student success in Woodland.
Woodland Public Schools will seek a replacement three-year Operations and Maintenance Levy on the ballot in February 2017, which will raise $4.5 million in funding for collection in 2018; $4.75 million in 2019; and $5 million in 2020. The district forecasts the total school tax rate for Woodland in 2017 at $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation for collection in 2018; $2.70 in 2019; and $2.69 in 2020. According to district officials, Woodland Public Schools will continue to remain among the lowest tax rates of Clark and Cowlitz County school districts.
The last three-year levy for Woodland Public Schools, passed in February 2014, included tax rates per $1,000 of assessed property value of $2.57 in 2014; $2.76 in 2015; and $2.62 in 2016.
“We plan to maintain Woodland Public Schools’ reputation for providing an excellent education for our students while maintaining strict fiscal responsibility,” said Superintendent Michael Green. “We have a tradition of success and our community recognizes the high quality of education taking place in the communities served by Woodland Public Schools.”
Community members interested in learning more about the Replacement Operations and Maintenance Levy can visit the district’s website at www.woodlandschools.org/levy where they can receive additional information and ask questions not answered here.
This information was provided by Woodland Public Schools.