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Federal Way schools reduce tax collection by $10 million

As voters await the fate of a levy to rebuild Federal Way High School, the school district announced substantial savings for taxpayers on a different levy.

The Federal Way School Board unanimously approved the "rollback" of $10 million in district tax collections during its Oct. 23 meeting.

The district originally sought the extra money in February because of uncertainty in the state Legislature's ability to work out a budget. The journey started in August 2011, with the board making a decision about the Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy, which was presented to the voters on Feb. 14, 2012.

"That decision that was made in August asked our voters to consider supporting both the current levels of EP&O levy funds of $45 million, and the potential of adding $8 million in local effort assistance (LEA) to that tax collection," said Sally McLean, assistant superintendent of business services. "That (LEA) funding stream was in jeopardy due to the state's budget shortfall."

Federal Way voters approved the additional $8 million during the February special election. However, in the interim, the state Legislature was able to come to an agreement on a budget, and left the LEA funding untouched.

LEA funds are especially important to districts like Federal Way. It is essentially state matched funding for districts that have been considered historically poor.

Because of this, McLean said the district does not need to collect that additional $8.8 million, and also will not need to collect an additional $1.7 million that was approved for the district's debt service levy.

The district's ability to refinance on a number of its financial outlays is credited for the rollback of the $1.7 million, according to McLean.

"Voters will think this is great," said board member Danny Peterson.

About 80 percent of the EPO levy money goes to basic education. The levy represents 25 percent of the district's overall budget.

UPCOMING ELECTION

In the Nov. 6 election, voters are asked to approve a capital projects levy to help rebuild Federal Way High School. The levy will also help fund new playground equipment at elementary schools as well as new security equipment.

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