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Central Puget Sound is ‘feeling the pinch’ for education

(File, Associated Press)

As of Wednesday morning, the majority of school levies and bond measures for King County school districts were passing.

Check local election results

Twenty-two school levies and two bond measures were passing. If approved, it would give districts millions more in revenue beginning next year.

What people may not realize — or realized too late — is how much their property taxes are already increasing in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. Some will see property taxes increases as high as 30 percent; the average King County homeowner will see an increase of about 17 percent. For a median-valued home in Seattle ($597,000), an owner should expect to pay about $825 more than last year, according to The Seattle Times.

What to understand about school levies

But aren’t local levies supposed to wither away with the McCleary fix?

“That’s going to happen January 1,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal told Seattle’s Morning News. “What you saw last year was the Legislature using property tax to solve McCleary, or get awfully close.”

More rural areas of Washington will eventually see a “substantial tax cut,” Reykdal says. But the Greater Seattle area will not see taxes drop as much as they will increase. It’s a significant tax shift from rural to urban Washington.

The question now is: Should we be relying on property taxes to pay for education?

“That’s where it’s hard, because even in Western Washington if you’re on a fixed income, the property tax is relentless,” Reykdal said.

Districts ask for funding amid hefty tax increase

State funding increases have not covered many needs of school districts, including paying for special programs, transportation, and class-size reduction. That’s where levies come in.

Right now, it seems there isn’t much of an option. Voters continue to say no to an income tax. Reykdal says the state will continue to study alternatives, including the B&O tax, sales tax, and carbon tax.

“The state is doing well economically, and you always have to balance growth with fair taxation,” he said. “Right now, Central Puget Sound is feeling the pinch …”

Listen to the entire conversation here.

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