February 2014 Maintenance & Operations (M&O) LevyQuestion and Answers, Updated 12-17-13
Where do public schools get their money?
We receive our funding from three sources - State, Federal and Local. About 71% comes from the state, about 16% from local taxes/grants/fees, and 13% from the federal government. The law allows us to ask our local voters for up to 28% of the amount we receive from state and federal allocations. Historically, we have asked for less than the maximum allowed and currently are requesting 23%.
How do schools get local money?
Through Maintenance and Operations levies we raise funds to support our schools. Property owners pay a set amount for each $1,000 of their property values (called Assessed Valuation or AV). These levies require voter approval and cannot be increased. For example, when voters approve $5,175,000 for collection in 2015 and the property value in the community grows more than anticipated, the rate per $1,000 AV decreases. The reverse is true when property values decrease. The AMOUNT taxpayers pay does not change, only the cost per thousand fluctuates based on the annual property assessments.
What is a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy about? Is this for building new schools or for janitorial supplies?
Money from the M&O levy is commonly used to “maintain” many of the functions or “operations” of the schools and district. Basic educational funding from Washington State falls short of covering the full costs of many of the programs and activities our community expects in our schools. For example, the state only provides about 58% of the actual costs of our transportation program. In addition, the state does not claim to fully fund other activities because they see them as locally supported initiatives. Examples in this area include the cost of utilities, district music programs, technology services, building maintenance and insurance and janitorial supplies.
Is this a new tax added to our existing taxes?
No. This is a replacement tax. It is comparable to a magazine subscription. You renew your subscription each year to continue to have the same magazine come to your house. M&O levies renew the education students receive for a two-year period of time. As one runs out, another one is voted on to take its place. They are based on assessed property values. In this case, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay approximately $422 in 2015 and $420 in 2016. Remember, the previous levy will end before this levy would start. The levy is used to provide funds for basic instruction and educational opportunities that are not covered by the money allocated by the state.
Will this M&O levy be used to build the new schools or remodel old schools?
No. M&O levies are not used to build new facilities. We ask voters to approve a separate bond or capital projects levy for remodeling or building new schools. In 1997, the voters approved a bond to remodel the McDermoth School. In 2000, voters approved a bond to build a new Robert Gray School. In 2003, voters approved a bond to build the new High School. This M&O levy is different from these bonds in that it is used for general school operations and maintenance of the existing buildings. It helps to pay the utility bills and insurance, provides for textbooks and other items not covered by state or federal allocations. The district refinanced the existing bonds in 2011 to a lower interest rate to help maintain a level tax rate.
How much will the M&O levy cost me?
The levy rates in 2015 and 2016 will keep the commitment that was made to voters during the High School bond campaign for a total tax rate (including the M&O levy and all bonds) of no more than $6.40 per$1,000 AV. For 2015, the total tax rate for both the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy and the existing bonds is expected to be $6.28 and $6.28 for 2016. The rates for the current levy and the proposed levy as well as the costs for a $100,000 home are shown in the table below.
Estimated Rate per $1,000 AV
Cost for $100,000 home
2014 current projected
When are levy decisions made?
February is the customary time to put school related issues on the ballot. Discussions at school board meetings and schools help the district plan for long-term needs during the upcoming years. When school districts run a Maintenance & Operations Levy, they explain their budget projections and how the levy dollars help meet the state shortfall and student needs. This levy is for two calendar years, 2015 and 2016.
The four-year levy law passed. Why aren’t we going for four years?
We want to be sure that we have budgeted properly for the future. With significant changes happening at the state level in funding, increased use of technology, enrollment fluctuations and curriculum needs, we cannot be sure that we can adequately project our needs beyond a two-year period. Perhaps in future years, we will attempt three or four year levies.
Do all school districts receive equal state funding?
The basic formula gives each district a certain dollar amount for each full time student. For each student who needs extra services, there are formulas for additional money. The state also recognizes that some communities have higher property values and can raise funds to support their schools more easily than others. For this reason, the state provides an incentive to districts like ours for passing local M&O levies. Our district will receive about $2.4million per year from these incentive funds if we pass our levy. We do not receive any incentive money if the voters do not approve the levy. Therefore, the impact to our schools of a levy loss would be about 22% of the total budget even though the local levy provides about 16% of our total budget.
What programs are we funding?
Part of the levy will cover salaries of certificated teachers used to reduce class size and to improve student learning. Part will fund educational assistants to help in the classroom and on the playground. Some will be used to improve and update the technology and textbooks used in our schools. We will also continue to fund elementary counselors so that we have one counselor in each of our elementary schools. All of our extra-curricular programs are funded by our levy.
Aren’t these items funded by the state under basic education funding?
No. Basic education funds from the state and federal government provide about 84% of the cost of basic education. If we want our children to be competitive for tomorrow’s job markets, we have to make sure they get the education they need and the same level of education that other students around the state receive. The funds requested through this levy represent about 16% of our schools proposed budget for the next two years (22% if you include the incentive funds that would be lost if the levy did not pass).
What happens if this levy fails?
Our community has not failed an M&O levy for over 34 years. If this should happen, our children will not receive the level of educational support and co-curricular opportunities that are available to them today. The district and schools will lose approximately 22% of their annual budget (including the loss of incentive funds) and be forced to cut deeply into basic programs. A number of certificated teachers and instructional assistants will be laid off. Class sizes will be larger and the amount of individual attention each student receives from their teacher would drop. Programs such as music, art, drama,sports, and other extra-curricular activities would be drastically affected –if not completed eliminated. Our children’s future would be compromised as their education falls behind those of their peers in other communities who are passing their levies.
What do we use curriculum materials for?
We try to replace textbooks, upgrade instructional materials, or implement online content used in each subject area once every seven years. Each year, we focus on specific subject areas and make sure that the students have adequate materials and support curriculum that represent the best instructional methods and the latest information. During this levy cycle, we will continue to review our move to the Common Core Standards in math and language arts, science, and world languages. We are also preparing for the new Smarter-Balanced state assessment that is replacing the current Measures of Student Progress (MSP) and High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE). Our objective is to improve the number of students who master the material as well as increase the knowledge and skills of each student. Understanding and using technology is across-curricular component of our planning along with ongoing training for staff in all content areas.
What are co-curricular or extra-curricular programs?
These include drama, musicals, the swim program, athletic competitions and intramurals, performing and marching bands, choir, orchestra and other after school activities. Levy funds make it possible to provide these opportunities to all children regardless of income.
How much of an increase in funding is this M&O request?
For collection in 2014, voters approved an M&O levy of $5,065,500. This replacement request is for $5,175,000 in 2015 and $5,200,000 in 2016. These increases are approximately 2.13% in 2015 and 0.48% in 2016.
Combined with the High School Bond, what will my taxes be compared to what they are now?
The total taxes paid to schools include the M&O levy and any bonds or Capital Projects levies for school construction projects. The following chart shows the total rates for taxpayers, including the M&O levy plus the combined McDermoth, Robert Gray, and High School bonds for both our current 2013 & 2014 measures and our proposed 2015 & 2016 measures.
Total Tax Rate
Historically, what has been the pattern of our M&O rate and our bond rate?
The cost per thousand for taxpayers fluctuates with increases or decreases in assessed value. The combined M&O levy amount and various bond amounts also impact the total tax rate for community members in the Aberdeen School District. Below is a chart showing the breakdown of the total tax rate over the past ten years in Aberdeen.
Total Tax Rate
$6.2100(Source: Grays Harbor County, State of Washington, Assessor’s Report for the years 2004 through 2013. Retrieved online at http://www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info/assessor/Index.asp)