Seattle School Board Votes in Support of Tax Increase on Homeowners
Wednesday night the Seattle School Board passed a resolution calling for doubling the cost of the city’s Families and Education Levy, which goes to Seattle voters for renewal in November.
The main business of the 3-hour meeting was a discussion of possibly eliminating 70 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions from the District’s workforce of 5,000 employees, and what impact this may have on the adults in the system. Union leaders spoke against the FTE reduction. There was almost no discussion by Board members of academic standards, raising student achievement, improving the quality of classroom instruction, lowering drop-out rates rates or preparing graduates for college-level study. Currently one out of three Seattle public school students drop out, and of those who do graduate nearly 40% require remedial classes in math and English before they are ready for college.
The Seattle Times report on the meeting is here.
The higher Levy amount the School Board wants would impose a sharp increase in Seattle’s property tax. If passed in November the Levy would double to $231 million over seven years. The Levy that is expiring this year was for $116 million.
The Families and Education program has spent $254 million since it started in 1990, but it is no closer to achieving its two-fold promise of lowering the dropout rate and closing the achievement gap between white and minority students. Currently the achievement gap for minority students ranges as high as 50%. Meanwhile, the School District’s regular budget, not counting Levy funds, has increased 35% since 2004, when the last Families and Education Levy passed.
The cost of the Levy would add $134 per year in taxes on an average home, on top of the $4,300 per year now paid by the average homeowner. Property taxes on the average home rose 8% last year. Inflation last year was 1.6%.
The new Levy’s higher financial burden would fall disproportionately on the poor, young families and elderly people living on fixed incomes. Homeowners who today owe more than their home is worth, or about one-third mortgage holders in Seattle, would be especially hard hit.
This is the fourth school levy in two years. If passed it would be added to the 14 bonds and special levies already being funded by Seattle residents.
All seven School Board members voted for the tax-increase resolution. The Board members are Michael DeBell, Sherry Carr, Peter Maier, Harium Martin-Morris, Betty Patu, Kay Smith-Blum and Steve Sundquist.