Funding for public education makes up more than 50% of the state budget for the first time since 1983, after dipping as low as 38% just over a decade ago.
This is important as a significant part of the McCleary ruling highlighted that the state was not paying the full cost of providing each student with a “basic education.” With the state’s share dipping over the last 30 years, local school districts began using local property tax levies — which are supposed to pay for supplemental items — to pay for things for which the state is responsible like day-to-day operating costs and textbooks.
Given the wide variety of property values and populations throughout the state, this overreliance on local levies resulted in wildly different funding levels for each districts.
We’ve addressed that by not only increasing state funding, but changing how local levies function. School district only levies will no longer be determined based on a percentage of the district’s state and federal funding (currently 28 percent allowed), but rather capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per student. This comes along with an increase in the state property tax for schools by ~$0.81.
Right now Pierce County school districts have local levy rates ranging from $3.05 in Fife to as high as $5.38 in Franklin Pierce. The net result when adding the increased state rate with the maximum allowed local levy is a net property tax reduction from 2019 through 2021 for homeowners in the Franklin Pierce, Fife, Puyallup and Tacoma School Districts.
Last week the Tacoma News Tribune reported in-depth on how the new system works and what it means for Pierce County residents. You can read the article by clicking here.