Replacement levies in Washington State generally include: (1) approval of the ballot title by the county attorney, (2) a reasonably level estimated tax rate for voters, and (3) the ability to maintain the staffing, programs, and services in the prior levy.
Oak Harbor’s proposed replacement levy meets all of these criteria. It is important to know that Washington State requires that its state-mandated cost of living adjustments and benefits apply to all staff, including levy-funded staff. In order to maintain the existing services, the dollars collected each year are adjusted to reflect increased property values, maintaining a level estimated tax rate and sustaining the promised services for students.
These annual dollar amounts are clearly listed by tax year in (1) the mailer sent to every address in Oak Harbor, (2) on our levy webpage, and (3) will be clearly listed on the ballot measure. This is consistent with districts across our state and has been the same with every levy run in Oak Harbor, including those passed regularly by voters over the last 20 years.
We hear you. That’s why the district is keeping its levy rate and dollars per student below the state maximum for schools, while neighboring districts not only collect the maximum, they also add supplemental levies on top. The state caps Educational Program and Operations (EP&O) levies at $2,500 per student. Oak Harbor’s levy is $500 below the maximum at $2,000 per student. The state maximum rate for an EP&O levy is $2.50. The estimated rate for the replacement levy is $2.28, which is $.27 below the maximum.
Even with fewer dollars per student than neighboring districts, Oak Harbor has one of the highest graduation rates in the state and has earned multiple state/national awards for its schools and programs. In fact, Oak Harbor has received more state and national recognition for its exceptional programs and services for students than any other district in our region.
Yes, even if the active-duty member maintains his or her residency elsewhere.
No. Levy money is only used to pay for our promised levy-supported programs, staff, and resources.
Since passing the levy in 2013, it’s no coincidence the district has seen record-high graduation rates – among the highest in the state, national success in programs like DECA, culinary arts, NJROTC, and robotics, national awards including becoming a National Green Ribbon District and recognition of Oak Harbor High Schools as one of the best in America by US News and World Report, as well as numerous other academic and program awards.
Our local community decides how to spend local funds. This makes levies powerful because we have local control. Oak Harbor has invested local dollars based on the community's priorities without state or federal government interference. That’s why our local levy has made such a profound difference for students.
The state funds what it calls a “prototypical model” for K-12 public education. We do not believe their model meets our standards for what is best for students and our community. An example of where our local community’s standards are higher than the state’s model is nursing. The state funds .868 nurses for 6,000 students across 15 schools. Thanks to our levy, we support an additional three registered nurses (RN’s) and four licensed practical nurses (LPN’s) to serve our students. That’s 7.132 more nurses than the state funds. Imagine not having those nurses at a time like this. There are many other examples of deficiencies in the state funding model. See the answer to the above question “what does the replacement operations levy pay for?”
The replacement educational and operational levy totals an average of $12 million per year for each of the four years. Based on current assessed values for homes, the approximate rate per $1,000 is $2.28. This is the same rate currently being collected. The district will collect the levy amount and the rate per $1,000 will be adjusted based on property values.
No. The levy is a flat dollar amount collected regardless of student enrollment. We slightly increase the levy amount each year for inflation. By doing this, it keeps our rate per $1,000 relatively flat. In fact, over the past two levies, taxpayers have paid less than the advertised rate. However, that could change depending on our assessed property values.
No. The levy is a flat dollar amount collected regardless of assessed property values.
Impact Aid does not equal what the district would receive if all of the Federal lands in Oak Harbor paid property taxes. In fact, in 10 years, Oak Harbor Public Schools has seen just an increase of $1 million in Impact Aid funding. Oak Harbor’s levy plus Impact Aid is less per student than most of our neighboring districts get from their levies alone.
Yes. There are some property tax exemptions for senior citizens, disabled individuals, and widows/widowers of veterans. There are also deferments available for other property owners. Details about how to qualify for these programs are available from the Department of Revenue.
The last levy election was in February of 2017 and lasted for four years.
No. It replaces the current levy, which expires at the end of 2021. The new levy would start in January 2022.
This is not a new levy. It’s a replacement of the current levy that expires at the end of the 2021 calendar year. It will continue to support the same successful programs and services in Oak Harbor Public Schools.
Advanced placement classes, the arts, special education, safety, and building maintenance and repairs, technology, curriculum, supplies, libraries, nurses, counselors, career & technical education, para-educators, activity and tutor buses, and all athletics, clubs, and after-school enrichment programs are just a few examples.
Basic education is the minimum educational program that the state funds. The state legislature defines basic education and is required by the constitution to fund it. Basic education is the minimum that districts are required to provide students and all that is funded. Districts may offer additional programming and services with local funds.
Currently, the state’s basic education program funds a minimum number of school days and hours including a minimum number of staff, part of the costs of special education, English language support, some services for students below or above standard academically, about 70% of transportation costs, and a certain amount of funds for supplies and equipment. Anything above the minimum falls on local districts to cover.
For example, the state only funds an average 5 hour and 42 minute student day, while our district averages a 6 hour and 13 minute student day. The additional 30 minutes per day is supported by the levy.
Our local levy plus state levy match constitutes nearly 14% or $15 of our budget. If we have a double levy failure, our district also loses those levy equalization funds from the state. The result would be a devastating impact on services for students. We would have to lay off (or eliminate) at least 125 staff positions and curtail valuable services and programs for students.
As evidence, you only need to look back to 2008 when the district failed one of two levies and had half the levy resources it does today. This was not a full levy failure, we still had half of the current levy in place. Nevertheless, between 2009 and 2012 the district was forced to:
- Eliminate 34 teaching positions and 30 classified positions
- Cut the length of the middle school day
- Eliminate the Teaching & Learning Department
- Suspend all curriculum replacement
- Suspend technology replacements
- Eliminate middle school athletics
- Cut all C teams and assistant coaches at the high school
- Eliminate after school tutoring and the tutor bus
- Suspend most preventative building maintenance
- Reduce school supplies
- And much more.
A failure of our entire levy would have twice the impact of those cuts. In 2012, the district ran a new levy at double the rate (because it was so low to begin with) under the theme, “Restore and Protect.” This levy passed and started in 2013, allowing the district to restore what was lost during the years of cuts, which it has. The long list of measurable results and successes that followed is a direct result of this investment.
To put levies into perspective, 289 of the 295 districts in Washington State have school levies. Those that don’t are on Federal property and rely entirely on federal funds due to the lack of any taxable land. The legislature never intended districts to rely on state funding alone. It is assumed that districts need to run levies to pay for the long list of services outside the narrow definition of basic education. That gives district local control over those locally-funded programs and services outside of state mandates.
It’s important to note the expiring levy is collected for the 2021 school year, but budgets have to be approved prior to the start of the next school year so those cuts would be made over the summer months.
The levy in Oak Harbor helps pay for all of the programs and services the state does not consider to be “basic education” and helps bridge the gap for many programs that are underfunded. One-sixth of the district budget comes from the levy and state levy match, including nearly 125 staff positions.
The state underfunds services such as special education and support for health and safety. The levy supplements these services. Electives, activities & athletics, advanced programs, and more are not considered “basic education” and require levy funding.