• Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    The state of Washington is required to supply school districts with state funding for “basic education.” Outside of state funding, schools may receive money for facilities, programs, and services from voter-approved bonds and levies. Because the funding provided by the state does not cover the actual costs to operate a school district, districts often utilize bonds and levies to bridge the gap.

    These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) aim to help explain the primary ways that school districts in the state of Washington receive funding and why local, voter-approved levy measures are critical to funding education.

    Q: What is a levy?

    A Levy is a local property tax passed by the voters of a school district that generates revenue to fund programs and services that the state does not pay for as part of basic education. Because the funding provided by the state does not cover the actual costs to operate a school district, districts often use levy funds to hire additional staff, or for student programming and services that are underfunded or not funded by the state.

    Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levies (formerly called Maintenance and Operations levies) allow a school district to provide things like athletics and extracurricular activities, support staff, technology, or services that the state only partially funds.

    Q: How are levies approved?

    A:  Many school districts run levies and bonds. While both bonds and levies require voter approval, in Washington State, bonds require a higher majority of voter approval than levies. Bonds require a supermajority to pass (60%).  Levies require a simple majority to pass (50% + 1).

    Q: What is a levy rate?

    A:  A levy rate is the amount of property tax per $1,000 of assessed property value to fund a voter approved levy amount. A levy rate of $1.00 means that for every $1,000 of property value, the owner of the property will have to pay $1.00 in taxes.

    In Kiona-Benton City School District, the proposed Levy rate is $1.50 for both 2022 and 2023.

    Q: How often can school districts run levies?

    A:  Voters can approve an EP&O levy for up to four years. Kiona-Benton City School District typically runs two-year levies. After the allotted number of years, the levy expires. Districts usually then go back to their voters and ask for a continuation, replacement, or enrichment levy.

    Q: Is there a tax break for senior citizens?

    A:  Yes! Washington State law provides two tax benefit programs for senior citizens and individuals who are disabled: property tax exemptions and property tax deferrals. For more information on qualifications, please contact the Benton County Assessor's office at https://www.bentonauditor.com/Elections-Department?id=781&catid=46 or 509-786-5620.

    STATE FUNDING QUESTIONS

    Q: Didn’t Washington schools already receive money from the state because of the McCleary decision?

    A:  Increased state funding approved by the state legislature through the McCleary Act did help the Kiona-Benton City School District. However, the fact remains that state dollars do not pay for athletics, music, extracurricular activities, and many essential items such as technology. State money always comes with specific dictates on how it may be spent. Local levies are the only way to pay for athletics and activities.

    The State of Washington determines how much money will be allocated to all school districts each year. Since 2018, the total state tax rate (including McCleary) has dropped from $3.17 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $2.68 per $1,000 of assessed property value in our district. As the state tax rate decreases, so does the amount of funding our district receives to cover these costs.

    Q: What happens if the 2021 proposed levy is not approved?

    Our District had to make the difficult decision to cut staff in order to keep the budget balanced when the 2020 levy did not pass. We eliminated administrative, counseling, and certificated staff positions and did not fill open para positions. We eliminated curriculum purchases and restricted out-of-district travel. This kept our district going for the 2020-2021 school year. Even with the staff cuts and conservative planning, our district simply cannot continue to pay fully for athletics, Camp Wooten, music, and other activities going forward without local funding. There is nowhere else for us to pull funding from to keep athletics and extracurricular activities going. If the levy is not approved, the district will need to look at charging substantial direct participation fees or eliminating these programs altogether.