Federal Way Public Schools headquarters. File photo

Federal Way Public Schools headquarters. File photo

FWPS seeking levy renewals on February special ballot

The Educational Programs & Operations (EP&O) and Technology levies are up for renewal on the February 2022 special ballot.

The Federal Way Public Schools Educational Programs & Operations (EP&O) and Technology levies are up for renewal on the February 2022 special ballot.

The replacement levies are not new taxes and have been continuously approved by voters since 1980, said Superintendent Dr. Dani Pfeiffer.

“They understand the importance of education,” Pfeiffer said of the voters and taxpayers in the community. “They understand the importance of these particular levy funds being used to create comprehensive programming and provide support for our scholars, supports that are greatly needed to offset that which is not funded by the state, or underfunded by the state.”

On the Feb. 8 ballot, the school district is asking voters to approve the EP&O levy with a total collection of $174 million over four years, and the technology levy with a total collection of $28 million over six years.

The district said this is a small increase from the current levies, and the collection is structured to keep the current overall combined school tax rate.

In 2021, the total combined tax rate, which includes the EP&O levy, the tech levy, and the Phase 2 Bond, is $3.63 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. If voters approve both levies Feb. 8, the highest estimated combined tax rate over the next four years is $3.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The EP&O levy makes up approximately 8% of the district’s budget.

The EP&O replacement levy maintains safe and supportive learning environments for all students by funding essential staff like nurses, counselors, social workers, para-educators, college and career specialists, custodians, security, bus drivers and transportation services. The levy also funds special education, English Language Learner services, and music education programs, along with athletics and after-school programs.

Renewal of the tech levy will continue to provide students with equitable access to technology, digital tools and resources, and essential learning experiences. It will also provide student and teacher devices and support; instructional technology training and integration; and a reliable technology infrastructure to include critical equipment and systems maintenance and upgrades.

Technology levy funds were important in navigating remote learning throughout the pandemic, Pfeiffer said, from providing the necessary technology to the maintenance of those resources.

“It’s one thing to have the laptops and access to technology, it’s another to maintain infrastructure, certain software is maintained and the needed upgrades,” she said.

The Federal Way Public Schools system comprises 37 sites and approximately 22,000 students. In another example of the levies’ importance in the district, the state funds 3.4 nurses, and the EP&O levy fills in the gap by funding the remaining 14 positions needed to adequately care for Federal Way students.

The district continues to prioritize legislative action, Pfeiffer said. If the levies are not approved, the outcome would be detrimental to the Federal Way district.

Washington state’s K-12 education funding formula is the Prototypical School Funding Model (PSFM). This model is driven by student enrollment in the school, but does not meet all of each district’s program or staffing needs, Pfeiffer said.

“That gap in funding, either absence of funding or underfunding, is then covered by levy dollars,” she said.

Federal Way’s school district legislative priority is to be advocates in revisiting the model, so “school districts do not have to inherently rely upon the generosity of our taxpayers to carry that burden that should be offset by state funding,” Pfeiffer said.

The EP&O and Tech levy measures, on the Feb. 8, 2022, special election ballot, require a majority vote of 50% plus one in order to be approved.

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