As the back to school intensity begins to pick up throughout the lower valley for students and parents, there’s a momentum of building advanced programs at area campuses with the construction of facilities. These facilities when complete, will accommodate expanding educational opportunities – moving forward and growing with a determined pursuit which adds to our overall quality of life.

Washington State legislatures passed the 2019-21 budget which continued to invest heavily in all aspects of K-12 education – attempting to make up for prior years of neglect. The neglect a result of decisions made by these same elected leaders who failed to fully and fairly fund basic education obligations as set forth by state’s constitution and upheld with a 2012 Supreme Court ruling for compliance.

The biennial budget restores levy authority back to local communities. To ensure communities and voters maintain the ability to enhance K-12 funding in their local districts, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill to restore school district levy flexibility while also increasing Local Effort Assistance funding to make sure districts don’t experience deep budget reductions while the new levy policies go into effect during 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.

An additional key component of the transfer of levy authority back to local school districts was allowing them to also raise the property tax rate to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. Historically, those taxes fund the state’s public education system.

Politicians have been disproportionately concerned with creating an even playing field throughout the state in generating an equitable revenue base for both the west and eastside where agriculturally based communities possess a distinct property value classification – in which every homeowner is required to pay the same rate and taking away any homefield advantage, until now.

The issue of bonds and levies can be unclear at times and the effort to understand their differences and costs associated with each is to start with the concept that bonds finance buildings and levies fund learning programs.

Presently, there’s a $1.50 levy in place that was passed by Sunnyside voters four years ago. Those taxes pay for the operation of school programs which are offered outside of basic education curriculum and benefit community students. The state also provides matching funds to levy revenues raised locally.

There are strict governmental policies in place on how those monies can be used. Back in February, local voters passed, with a super majority approval of 62.78 percent, for the $16 million capital improvements at the high school.

The significant difference between bonds and levies, except for how those funds can be used, is the number of votes required to pass. State statute mandates levies are subject to a 50 percent or simple majority of votes.

Sunnyside residents have made their voices heard at the ballot box when it comes to the educational values put in place for supporting students, teachers, counselors, nurses, paraeducators and school resource officers in creating learning pathways between K-12 and good paying jobs which benefits our community.

Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com

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