School levies go to Feb. 2012 ballot | Will Federal Way pay more?

The Federal Way School Board unanimously approved two levy proposals for the district to be placed on a Feb. 14, 2012 ballot. The two proposals are the “replacement” Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) levy, and a capital levy for the renovation/rebuilding of Federal Way High School.

The approval was made at the Nov. 8 board meeting. The EPO levy will ask voters for a continuation of a current levy approved three years ago and is set to expire in 2012. It will range between $45 million and $53 million, depending on what the state Legislature does regarding Local Effort Assistance (LEA) funds. Assistant superintendent for business services Sally McLean said this uncertainty is the district’s biggest issue going forward.

“The biggest unknown we have is the ongoing state support for property tax relief, or what is more commonly referred to as Local Effort Assistance,” she said. “Our calendar year 2012 Local Effort Assistance allocation from the state is $7.7 million. It would be our hope that the state will not cut Local Effort Assistance.”

If the state does cut LEA funding to the district, the district will ask for $53 million on the EPO levy. If the LEA funding survives, the district will scale back the amount to $45 million, which is in essence a continuation of the levy voters currently support. Regardless of the amount, the proposition placed on the ballot will run for two years, instead of four years, which has been the practice in the past.

The capital levy on the ballot will ask voters to approve $60 million over six years for the renovation of Federal Way High School. The district has been able to accumulate $50 million for this project already, an outcome that puts both the district and the voters in a good position, McLean said. A small portion of the capital levy will be used to improve some playground equipment throughout the district and help bring uniformity to building security camera systems.

McLean prefaced her Nov. 8 presentation with two other items that required school board approval. The two items she asked the school board to consider were to roll back its tax collection for 2012 by approximately $3 million for the district’s general fund and debt service fund.

“Voter authorized bonds are similar to mortgages,” McLean explained. “The debt service is equal to the principle interest payment. Our 2012 debt service, principle and interest, totals $17.7 million. We have current resources in the debt service fund of $2.2 million that have been accumulated due to prior refunding. You’ve heard me talk about this being the silver lining in the recession…We have been able to refinance our outstanding bonds for much lower rates overall, saving our taxpayers money.”

McLean asked the board to roll back the amount from $17.7 million to an “actual tax collection of $15.5 million.”

For the general fund, McLean asked the board to roll back the collection amount by $818,078. Voters had approved exactly $45 million, she said, but the district’s “legal authority” to collect on that $45 million ended up being $44,185,922.

“With the adoption of these two resolutions, we will have held the tax collection constant for our taxpayers,” McLean said. “We have been able to do that…increasing the tax collection for the general fund, (while) we’ve been able to decrease what we’ve needed in the debt service fund. We’ve been able to put the money in our classrooms and not the banks, and kept our total tax collection the same.”

The board approved both items unanimously.


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