Federal Way school board sends replacement levy to voters

Federal Way Public Schools - Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools
Federal Way Public Schools
— image credit: Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools

The Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) Board of Directors voted unanimously on Dec. 3 to approve sending a replacement Educational Program and Operations (EPO) levy to voters on Feb. 11, 2014.

The replacement EPO levy will be for $53 million a year between the years 2015-2018.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Sally McLean outlined the need for the replacement EPO levy, highlighting that it’s integral to the day-to-day operations of the district.

“The expiring levy pays for almost one-fifth, or 20 percent, of our daily operations,” she said. “An easy way to think about this is that the educational business is dependent on people. We have people teaching students, feeding students, cleaning up after students…If you think about the levy, and not having the levy, we would lose about one out of every five staff members who support our educational programs.”

McLean highlighted the point that what voters will be asked to approve in February is not an expansion of programs, but rather the EPO levy “allows current programs to continue.” The levy pays for general fund costs related to athletics and activities, providing for the Americorps and Junior ROTC programs throughout the district, and also programs such as the International Baccalaureate and Cambridge programs.

“It provides additional support per student,” she said.

McLean gave another metric that shows the need for the EPO, saying that if it was eliminated, classroom size would increase by two students. The EPO pays for about 8 percent of the district’s total teaching staff, and also pays for 100 percent of the “additional time and responsibility pay for all of our teachers.” The EPO also covers 16 percent of “classified” staff, which includes secretaries, custodians and similar support staff.

“While it is deemed an ‘excess levy,’ it is really an integral and core part of what we do every day in the school district,” McLean shared.

If approved by voters, the de-facto tax rate for the levy would be $4.95 per $1,000 of assessed value. An important factor to take into consideration, McLean said, is that with the previous EPO levy, the district has essentially been able to provide savings to the taxpayers because of other funding streams, meaning the full $53 million did not need to be collected by the district. They anticipate that would be the case for this levy, as well, Mclean said.

“It’s anticipated that the legal authority and actual tax collections and tax rates will continue to be less than what we’re asking for with the $53 million replacement levy,” she said.

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