Voter’s Guide: How Much Will the Seattle Education Tax Cost and Exactly How Much Will It Cost?


Here’s what you need to know about the city’s biggest education tax, and if the expiration of the tax made a difference in schools, before you send in your ballot.

Seattle voters will soon decide whether doubling the city government’s investment in public education is worth raising property taxes.

The city’s existing levies to pay some K-12 pprograms and a subsidized preschopilot ol both expire at the end of this year. And after campaigning on the promise to make community colleges free for high school graduates, Mayor Jenny Durkan launched the city’s largest education tax to combine K-12 and preschool programs with her offered scholarships. On your ballot, this initiative will be titled Seattle Proposition No. 1.

Here’s what you need to know before making that decision on election day. If you would like answers to other questions, please contact us at [email protected]

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How much would that cost? What tax hikes can homeowners expect?

If approved, the Families, Education, Preschool and Promises Levy would raise an estimated $ 619.6 million over seven years and expire after 2025.

The language of the ballot states that the city’s property tax rate would be capped at 36.5 cents per $ 1,000 of assessed value, meaning that the owner of a home with a median value of $ 665,000 would pay $ 242 per next year to support the tax. The average annual tax bill over the seven-year term of the new levy would be $ 248, up from $ 136 this year.

Disabled veterans and low-income Seattle residents could qualify for exemptions under State Law.

What is different this time?

The city’s education tax funded Kindergarten to Grade 12 programs, school family support workers, and school health clinics. The new proposal would include for the first time the city’s preschool program, which subsidizes tuition on a sliding scale, and college scholarships.

The new levy would also provide $ 4.2 million to deal with increasing number homeless students in Seattle.

Which programs would disappear if they failed?

A spokesperson for the city’s education department, the Department of Education and Early Learning, would not specify. But in an email, the spokesperson said the city would be ready to present “contingency plans”.

“If the tax is not passed, our programs such as the… (preschool program) would be at serious risk of losing funding,” the email said.

What are the past successes of these programs by supporters of the levies?

Overall it’s a mixed bag. We’ll find out more on Monday, when the education department releases a third-year assessment of the city’s preschool pilot.

As for the family and education tax, the ministry said it helped narrow the opportunity gap at four high schools on measures such as attendance and performance in basic classes. the Department most recent annual report, however, for the 2016-2017 school year, shows that these high schools only met 2 of the 8 goals for underserved students passing their core courses with Cs or better.

The ministry also cited an analysis of the same groups of college students over time. “Students were three times more likely to achieve mastery in mathematics by the end of (8th grade) if they attended” a tax-funded college. But the department’s annual report shows that less than half of those schools – 7 out of 16 – met their academic goals in math. Only 4 in 7 achieved their reading goals.

Who supports – and opposes – this tax hike?

Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed the levy and the city council voted unanimously send it to the ballot, with minor modifications. Politicians say it would help close the opportunity gap between children from more and less privileged backgrounds.

The city’s largest business and worker groups, including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, have approved the measure, as did five Democratic Party Legislative District organizations with a territory in Seattle.

The main contributors to the political campaign supporting the tax are Amazon, Mariners board member Chris Larson, hotel owner Howard S. Wright and the Service Employees International Union.

No one has recorded a political campaign against the tax.

But the League of Women Voters is out against the measure. And Melissa Westbrook, local education activist and blogger, opposed it.

Does it have anything to do with charter schools in Seattle?

Since last week, it is not clear.

The city spokesman said on Wednesday that his lawyer’s office still had not answered two lingering questions about whether charter schools, which are state-funded but privately run, could Benefit from the tax: Can graduates of these schools also access the college scholarship program and can charter schools compete with the traditional Seattle school district for K-12 grants from the levy?

The Washington State Association of Charter Schools, however, did not rule out that its members in Seattle will claim the tax money.

Stay tuned for more coverage.

Who would oversee how the city spends tax revenue?

The ultimate authority would rest with the mayor and the city council. But a standing oversight committee would include the mayor, a board member, the principal of Seattle public schools, a principal of the Seattle school board, the chancellor of Seattle colleges, and a dozen appointed members.

The oversight committee would review a report on the impacts of the tax each school year and recommend changes.

How does this proposal fit in with all the other tax hikes in Seattle?

In 2018, the statewide property tax rate increased to $ 2.70 per $ 1,000 of assessed value to pay a new K-12 budget. Earlier this year, lawmakers agreed to offer some relief to homeowners, and approved a one-year reduction in the state’s rate of 30 cents in 2019.

The new state budget also has caps on local property taxes that individual school districts can collect to pay for so-called enrichment activities, such as after-school programs or smaller classes.

The Seattle School District is currently using its separate local tax to hire more school nurses and provide special services to students with disabilities.

In February, the district will ask voters to renew that levy, but plans to propose a tax rate higher than the state cap allows, just in case lawmakers offer some flexibility.

Also in February, the district can ask voters to approve over a billion dollars in its capital levy for the construction and renovation of new schools. Voters last approved this levy, with a prize of nearly $ 700 million, in 2013.

How does the fate of this tax affect the finances of Seattle public schools, if at all?

The Seattle School Board Budget for the 2017-18 school year exceeded $ 850 million, so the $ 20 million Seattle public schools received from the city this year was just over 2%.

The district operating tax, which voters consider every three years, typically accounts for around 15-20% of the overall budget. This reality has left district officials worried about voters’ willingness to support another education tax on the ballot next year – having already voted on the city’s education tax.

“The (city) levy is important to us and our families,” said JoLynn Berge, assistant district superintendent for business and finance. But “we can’t do it without the maintenance and operation fee.”

Seattle Times reporters Dahlia Bazzaz and Daniel Beekman contributed to this report.


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