The Yakima school board will have a public information meeting Monday evening before deciding whether to put two, four-year property tax levies to vote on the February ballot.
The board will have an informational meeting at Washington Middle School in English and Spanish from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday evening. The board could vote on what to put on the ballot as early as its Tuesday evening board meeting.
The board is seeking community input before deciding whether to place a $2.50 education programs and operations levy and $0.54 capital improvements levy per $1,000 in assessed value on the ballot, as recommended by the district’s levy advisory committee.
The existing four-year levy is set to expire in 2020. The new combined dollar amount of $3.04 per $1,000 in assessed value would be the same amount as what voters approved four years ago.
While the amount would be the same, local and state property tax levies for schools have changed significantly over the past few years.
A reconfiguration of school taxes in 2018 by lawmakers capped local levies at $1.50 per $1,000 in property value and limited their use to enrichment programs, rather than funding things like general education teacher salaries. This cut the local levy funds the district was collecting roughly in half.
The change came in response to a lawsuit in which the state was found not to be fully funding basic education statewide. To address the ruling, the state poured more money into education through statewide school taxes.
The majority of districts statewide were negatively impacted by the adjustments, and in 2019 lawmakers raised the cap for most districts to $2.50 per $1,000 property value or $2,500 per student — whichever is less. Seattle schools were able to bring in more.
Yakima school officials say the levy proposal will help the local budget, which is expected to go into the red in the 2020-21 school year.
Districts also are allowed to run capital improvement levies for things such as technology contracts and building maintenance or repair, freeing up some general fund expenditures. Yakima would use the capital funding for technology contracts and deferred maintenance, said district communications director Kirsten Fitterer.
If Yakima were to place the levies on the Feb. 11 ballot, the education programs levy could bring in $14.7 million in 2021, which would be matched by local effort assistance funds from the state for an estimated total of roughly $30 million, Fitterer said. The capital improvements levy would bring in about $3.2 million the first year.