FERNDALE, Wash. — The current 4-year Ferndale School District levy has been in place since 2016. Since then, much has changed in the ways the Washington State legislature is owning up to their constitutional responsibility to fully fund public education. As a result, the board members have been struggling with the decisions involved in asking voters to approve another 4-year local levy that is expected to be on the Special Election ballot in February 2020.
Local school district levies, formerly known as Maintenance & Operations Levies, are now referred to as Educational Programs Levies and are expected to fill in where state funding falls short for educational programs and operations.
In recent years, the Ferndale School District saw the current voter-approved levy rate go from about $3.70 to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value as a result of state legislative decisions that created “levy caps.” This resulted in a reduction in expected revenue that was supposed to be replaced by an increase in state funding through increased state levy taxes.
When the voters were asked to approve the recent Ferndale School Bond issue for making capital improvements, including building a new high school, it was assumed the local levy cap would not be raised. As a result, voters were provided tax estimates that assumed the local levy rate would remain at $1.50.
But this year’s state legislature raised the levy cap to $2.50. This, it has been speculated, was due to their inability to again adequately fund public schools across the state.
Since voters approved a $3.70 tax rate in 2016 through 2020, the district will be able to collect property taxes at the levy cap of $2.50 during 2020. What happens beyond 2020 will be up to the voters and the levy choice provided to them by the Ferndale School Board during a special election in February 2020.
The following is an open letter to the community from the Ferndale School Board that discusses the challenges they are dealing with and the decisions made.
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