Yakima residents will vote on two school property tax levies during a Feb. 11 special election.
The Yakima school board voted unanimously Tuesday to put an educational programs and operations replacement levy and a capital improvement levy on the February ballot.
The district’s existing four-year levy is set to expire in 2020. The combined dollar amount of $3.04 per $1,000 in assessed value would be the same amount as voters approved locally four years ago. The education programs levy would be $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed value, and the capital improvements levy would be $0.54 per $1,000.
In 2018, the Legislature increased statewide school taxes in response to a lawsuit in which the state was found not to be fully funding basic education.
The district’s proposed capital improvement levy would provide an estimated $3 million annually to pay for building repairs and technology. The educational programs levy would provide about $15 million annually.
Board President Raymond Navarro said he’s received questions from the public about the role of the Washington State Lottery and marijuana taxes in education funding.
Cory Plager, of D.A. Davidson of Spokane, who spoke to the board about school levy trends in the state, said lottery proceeds and marijuana tax revenue go into the state’s general fund, which supports education statewide.
“Both revenue streams go into general fund, and both support education,” he said. “They aren’t streamlined directly to education, but a majority of the general fund supports K-12 education.”
Yakima Education Association President Steve McKenna said the organization supports both levies and plans to assist the levy campaign. He said the levies will support art, music, sports activities, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, and other needed efforts.
School board member Martha Rice said she appreciates that the district is separating out the capital project levy to fund much-needed deferred maintenance.
“To be able to use the capital levy funding when it’s passed to be able to take care of those things — rather than have it come out of the general fund — will be very beneficial,” she said.
A proposal to change Yakima’s city government structure also will be on the Feb. 11 ballot.
Editor's note: This story has been updated and corrected. The amount set by the district and approved by voters would be the amount collected.