Maple Valley residents will see decrease in property taxes

The lower property taxes could mean issues for the Tahoma School District

Property taxes went down almost 12 percent in Maple Valley due to the McCleary decision to fund K-12 education.

According to chief deputy assessor of King County, Al Dams, the decrease in property taxes are going to affect the Tahoma School District more than any other tax collecting agency in the city.

Kevin Patterson, director of communications at the Tahoma School District, said regardless of what the tax rate is, the district still collects the same amount from tax payers.

He said he thinks the overall reduction in property taxes is coming from the second phase of McCleary, which went into effect in 2017.

“There was a spike in property taxes last year because the school districts — all of them – were collecting levies at the old rate and then the McCleary addition went into effect,” Patterson explained. “Now this year, our district and a lot of others are up to a maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 (of assessed value), which essentially cut our thousand in half of what it had been. So property taxes went down as a result of that. That’s the relief tax payers are seeing this year because of the second phase of McCleary.”

The McCleary law occurred when the state supreme court ruled that Washington was not properly funding public education.

The intent was to provide additional funding to public schools in the state.

Patterson said looking at taxes for 2018 and 2019, there’s a reduction of about $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed value in Maple Valley based on the McCleary fund, which went down 30 cents.

He also said the Tahoma Educational Programs and Operations Levy (EP&O) went from $2.84 to $1.50 per $1,000. Along with the failed technology levy, which added 42 cents per $1,000.

“If you look at the Summary of General Fund Budget, local taxes are what we get from the EP&O ‘enhancement’ levy. It’s more this year because we were still collecting the old tax rate through the end of 2018,” Patterson explained in an email. “It goes to $10.8 million next school year and drops in 2020-21 because we can’t assume that the next levy will pass. We plan to run an EP&O in 2020 for collection beginning in 2021. The state apportionment is broken out by general purpose and special purpose, which includes special education, transportation and a few smaller programs, such as highly capable learners.”

He explained that another feature of the McCleary decision is districts are now required to do a four-year budget projection. According to the district’s projections, after this year the district will have to start using its fund balance reserve to balance out its budget. This is because the district won’t have income to meet expenses and part of that is in accordance to losing half of the levy income and the additional state income is not enough to cover all the district’s expenses.

The expenditures are a rough projection by using inflation estimates over the four years, even assuming the district passes the EP&O levy the next time it’s run, Patterson said.

It depends on what the legislature does, Patterson continued.

Dams said the state could make up for the money loss, but is unsure.

The state needs to solve this funding problem or the Tahoma School District and a lot of other districts will see financial troubles down the road, according to Patterson.

He said the state and district staff are working toward fixing the problem now. A group from the district went to Olympia Feb. 26 to speak with legislatures. They also went to discuss the district’s financial situation with legislatures.

There have been some solutions suggested, like going back to allowing districts to collect more from local levies to kind of courter balance and then also having other state funded methods to try and supplement income for districts, according to Patterson.

“It’s really complex and we need more funding for special education, we need it for technology, for transportation and to ensure that our staff is paid fairly. That was one of the big chunks this last year was staff raises and teacher raises across the state so that consumes some of that new money that came in from the state, which was part of the intent for the law, but now the unintended consequence is that we need additional funding to maintain that,” he said.

King County Treasury began sending out annual property tax bills in mid-February.

Property owners can find levy rates or other related information on the King County Assessor’s website, www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor.aspx, or by calling 206-296-7300.

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