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School levy ballots are in the mail

Ferndale School District sign outside the administration building on Vista Drive (October 22, 2016). Photo: Whatcom News

FERNDALE, Wash. — Ballots for a February 11th special election went out in the mail this week according to the Whatcom County Election Division. Depending on where you are registered to vote, you will see 1 or more of the following levies for years 2021 through 2024 for Whatcom County school districts and Whatcom County Fire District 8 (serves Marietta and Lummi Peninsula areas) on your ballot:

Tax DistrictLevy Title2021 mil rateEstimated 2021 amount (millions)
Bellingham School District Replacement Educational Support and Operations Levy$1.85$31.0
Bellingham School District Replacement Technology Capital Projects Levy $1.00$16.7
Ferndale School DistrictPrograms and Operations Replacement Levy $2.50$15.4
Blaine School DistrictReplacement Maintenance and Operations Levy$1.26$6.0
Lynden School DistrictReplacement of Existing Educational Programs and Operations Levy $2.37$6.7
Lynden School DistrictFacilities and Technology Projects Levy $0.27$0.8
Meridian School DistrictReplacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy$2.50$4.0
Meridian School District Technology and Capital Projects Levy $0.40$0.6
Nooksack Valley School District Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy$2.14$2.5
Mount Baker School District Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy $2.50$5.0
Fire Protection District 8 Tax Levy for Maintenance, Facilities and Operations $0.77$0.7

Ferndale School District officials say the amount collected by the levy each year represents about 13% of the District’s annual budget.

The last Ferndale School District levy (for 2016 through 2020) was approved with a mil rate (the tax rate applied per $1,000 of assessed property value) of $3.70. Given the estimated total assessed value of taxable property within the Ferndale School District at the time, that was expected to provide between $14- and $15-million per year in the District’s budget.

Since the 2016-2020 levy was approved, Washington State has been doing more toward providing public school funding at the state level. So as state tax rates increased, it was expected local rates would decrease. To that end, the state legislature imposed limits on the rates that could be imposed for local levies.

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As a result, even though voters approved the 2016-2020 local school levy with a tax rate of about $3.70, limits resulted in the district being limited to a rate of $1.50 during 2019. It was recently decided by the Ferndale School Board to set the levy rate for 2020, the last year of the current levy, at $2.17, below the allowed $2.50 cap for current levies.

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