January 12, 2017 – The Mercer Island School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Gary Plano and Board Director and Legislative Representative, Ralph Jorgenson, joined education leaders from throughout the Puget Sound region today to urge legislators to enact a bi-partisan solution to the “levy cliff” issue – which threatens to create a $228 million hole in local school budgets for the coming school year.
Plano and Director Jorgenson joined other school board members, superintendents, and parents from the Puget Sound Educational Service District’s (PSESD) 35 individual local school districts who gathered in Renton to underscore the importance of extending the existing local levy limit to maintain school programs in the coming year. The PSESD districts serve nearly 40 percent of the state’s public school children.
Mercer Island stands to lose $1.8 million in local dollars in 2018 if the levy limit is not extended, Dr. Plano said.
“The 2017 legislative session in Olympia will be an historic one given the backdrop of the McCleary decision which holds that the State Legislature has violated its constitutional duty to fully fund Washington’s public schools.”
Board Director Jorgenson added, "The State Legislature needs to come up with a bi-partisan solution to eliminate the impending ‘levy cliff.’ Without a solution, the 35 districts within the Puget Sound region that serve approximately 420,000 students would lose an estimated $228 million of local voter approved funds. And locally the Mercer Island School District would not be able to collect $1.8 million of local funds for educational programming next year that had previously been approved by our citizens.”
The top issue to be addressed by lawmakers in Olympia this session is the development of a state basic education funding formula that satisfies the Supreme Court’s requirements in its McCleary decision. Lawmakers gave districts limited authority to increase local school levies or in other words raise taxes in anticipation of the adoption of this new state formula; however that authority to raise local taxes is sun-setting. That creates a problem, because school budgets for the 2017-18 academic year must be developed with plans for staffing classrooms well before the legislature is expected to reach a decision on the funding formula.
“With the potential impact of the ‘levy cliff’ in our region approaching a quarter-of-a-billion dollars, the statewide impact on schools and students would be even more dramatic,” said John Welch, PSESD superintendent. “We need bipartisan action in Olympia early in the session to extend the existing levy limit so that schools can retain their teachers and maintain programs for their students until the final McCleary funding formula is adopted.”
Contact: Dr. Gary Plano, 206-236-3300