School board approves levy ask for February ballot

Published Nov. 11, 2021

On Oct. 28, the Vashon Island School District’s (VISD) board of directors unanimously approved a four-year Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy ask for the district’s general fund that will come before voters in a special election to be held Feb. 8, 2022.

The levy is not a new tax, but rather, a renewal of the district’s expiring EP&O levy, approved by voters on Feb. 18, 2018, by a 67% margin. EP&O levies passed in 2014 and 2010 were approved by even higher percentages of Vashon voters.

Funds from the renewed levy, if approved, will continue to provide revenue for 15% to 20% of the district’s operating budget, supporting a wide variety of important services and programs at the district, from special education requirements; to training and professional development of staff; to arts, music and extracurricular programs.

The ballot measure will call for islanders to approve an assessment of $1.50 per $1,000 assessed property values — the same rate as the current levy. This rate would collect an estimated $5.7 million in 2023; $6 million in 2024; $6.4 million in 2024; and $6.8 million in 2025.

However, it is possible that actual collected revenues will be significantly less than that, due to a change made by Washington’s legislature in 2020.

At that time, the levy lid for school districts was redefined as the lesser of two different calculations: either $2,500 per full-time enrolled (FTE) student, or $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property values, plus inflationary adjustments made each year.

Due to high assessed values on Vashon properties, the lesser rate of $2,500 per student would apply in the case of the renewed Vashon levy — if that rate is not again revised by the legislature. This means that the renewed levy could actually collect less in its four-year span than the approximately $16.2 collected from the previous EP&O levy.

According to Matt Sullivan, the district’s executive director of business and operations, it is typical for ballot measures and/or levies, especially for school districts, to ask for more than can be collected.

“No public agency running a levy will ever know for certain what the exact dollar rate/amount will be until after the fact,” he said, pointing to fluctuations in the economy and changes in assessed properties values.

These calculations have been made more complex, he said, by the 2020 legislation.

“…With bills being introduced every legislative session that will change the “lesser” language, we opted to stay with our current EP&O levy rate of $1.50 to hopefully ensure that we are able to collect all of our “lesser” $2,500 per student FTE as enrollment can and does change from year-to-year too,” he said.

As required by state law, the district must appoint committees to prepare written statements both in support and in opposition to each levy, to be included in King County voter pamphlets.

A pro committee is already in place, but the district is still seeking islanders to serve on the committee advocating for the rejection of the measure. Expressions of interest in this must be received by the board office no later than Friday, Nov. 19. Those interested should email or call 206-463-6262.