• February 9, 2016 Maintenance & Operations (M&O) Levy

    Questions and Answers

    Where do public schools get their money?

    We receive our funding from three sources.  About 73.4% comes from the state, about 12.5% from local taxes, about 10.9% from the federal government and 3.3% from other sources such as grants or fees.  The law allows us to ask our local voters for up to 28% of the amount we receive from state and federal allocations (levy base).  Historically, we have asked for less than the maximum allowed.  Our current request is approximately at 22.62% of our levy base. (http://k12.wa.us/SAFS/reports.asp)

    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, if voters approve $5,200,000 for collection in 2016 and the property value in the community grows more than anticipated, the rate per $1,000 AV decreases.  The opposite is also true if the AV in the district declines.  More information can be found on the Grays Harbor County Assessor's website. (http://www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info/assessor/Index.asp)

    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.  While the state is working to increase funding for K-12 education, the state does not claim to fully fund many of the activities because they see them as locally supported initiatives.  Examples in this area include the full cost of utilities, district music, drama and sports programs, technology services, professional development for teachers and other staff members, additional teachers, counselors and support staff, building maintenance and more.

    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 you 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 $440 in 2017 and $440 in 2018.  Remember, the previous levy will end before this levy would start.  The levy is used to provide for instruction and educational opportunities that are not covered by the money allocated by the state or federal government.

    Will this M&O levy be used to build the new schools or remodel old schools?

    No.  We ask voters to approve a separate bond or capital projects levy for remodeling or building new schools.  M&O levies are not used to build new facilities.  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 student devices, textbooks and other items not covered by state or federal allocations.  The district recently refinanced the existing bonds 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 2017 and 2018 will keep the commitment to maintaining a level tax rate for our citizens (including the M&O levy and all bonds).  For 2017, the total tax rate is expected to be $6.51 and $6.51 for 2018.  The rates for the current levy (2016) and the proposed levy (2017 & 2018) for a $100,000 home are shown in the table below.


    Rate per $1,000 AV

    Cost for $100,000 home







    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 years.  Voters make a decision on local school levies a little over a year in advance of collection.

    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 once state funding has stabilized.

    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 $2.8 million 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 19.2% of the total budget even though the local levy provides about 12.5% 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 as well as a counselor for each grade level at Miller JH and Aberdeen HS.  Many of our music and drama programs are funded with local levy dollars.  Students receive support in a variety of classes at all levels thanks to the addition of local funds.  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 84.3% 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 12.5% of our schools proposed budget for the next two years (19.2% 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 education and co-curricular opportunities that are available to them today.  The schools will lose approximately 19.2% 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.  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 Washington State Learning Standards in math and language arts, plan for assessments with the move to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and world languages.  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 a cross-curricular component of our planning as well as 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 2016, voters approved an M&O levy of $5,200,000.  This replacement request is for the same amount - $5,200,000 in 2017 and $5,200,000 in 2018.  This is a “hold the line” levy with no increases. 

    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.


    M&O Rate

    Bond Rate

    Total Tax Rate