Frequently Asked Questions about Levies and Bonds

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Funding for education in the state of Washington is complicated.  This page is intended to help answer some of the basic questions about how schools receive the money needed to serve our students. Funds for schools come from three main sources:

  1. State funding for basic education

  2. Bonds

  3. Levies

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 schools, districts often utilize levies and bonds to help bridge the gap. Keep reading to learn more about how Washington’s schools receive funding and why local, voter-approved bond and levy measures are critical to funding education.

Q: What is the difference between a bond and levy?

A: The easiest way to remember the difference between a bond and a levy is: Bonds are for building. Levies are for learning. Bonds and levies provide schools with funds that must be used for specific purposes.

Levies

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 schools, districts often use levy funds to hire additional staff, or for student programming and services that are underfunded or not funded by the state. Some of the many things that levies help to fund may include: extracurricular activities, special education, transportation, food service, operations, grounds and maintenance, preschool, and other activities.

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

A replacement levy is the renewal of an existing school levy that is about to expire. Typically, if a district is asking for a replacement levy to be approved by voters, it means that it is simply the continuation of an existing tax.

Bonds

A Bond is a long-term investment that authorizes the district to purchase property for schools, construct new schools, or modernize existing schools. Bonds are sold to investors who are repaid with interest over time from property tax collections, generally between 12-20 years.

Q: How are levies and bonds approved?

A:  Both bonds and levies require voter approval, but in Washington 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. In Waitsburg School District, the proposed EP&O Levy tax rate is $3.50. However, Washington State set a limit on the dollar amount a district may run for a levy (known as the “levy lid”).  Currently, levy rates are capped at $2.50, which means that Waitsburg’s projected tax rate will likely decrease to $2.50.

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 Walla Walla County Assessor’s Office at 509-524-2560, or the Columbia County Assessor at 509-382-2131