K-12 Education Funding

  • Funding for public schools comes from three main revenue sources:

    • State
    • Local taxpayers
    • Federal government
     
     

    HOW DO SCHOOLS GET "LOCAL" MONEY?

     
    Through levy and bond issues. Both are approved by the voters and are based upon local property valuations. Property owners pay a set amount for each $1,000 of their property values. Once approved, levy and bond amounts cannot be increased. When community property values increase, the amount paid per $1,000 decreases. There are exemptions for senior citizens who meet income requirements.

    The Property Tax Exemption Program freezes the value of the residence, exempts all excess levies, and may exempt a portion of regular levies for seniors who qualify. The program results in:
    • freezing the value of the residence, and
    • providing a reduction in property taxes.
    For further information, call the Pierce County Assessor's Office at (253) 798-2169. 
     
     

    DO ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS RECEIVE STATE FUNDING?

     
    The Basic Education Act of 1997 set a formula for sending state funds to school districts. The basic formula gives each district a certain dollar amount for each student attending school all day. For each student who needs extra services, such as special education programs, highly capable education, or bilingual education, there are state and federal formulas for additional funds. Districts that employ teachers with advanced degrees get extra funds for salaries. Districts with fewer than 300 students also receive extra money.
     
     

    WHAT DO FEDERAL FUNDS PAY FOR?

     
    The amount and the allocation of federal funds is different for each district depending on the needs and the demographics of the students. Typically, federal dollars pay for a percentage of vocational programs, special education, American Indian education, disability programs, food service programs and special grants. 
     
     

    WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BOND AND A LEVY AND WHAT DO THEY PAY FOR?

     
    One easy way to remember the difference is this, "bonds are for building, levies are for learning." 
     

    Maintenance & Operations Levies

     
    These levies provides local support for schools beyond what the state funds. Levies fund education programs and operation of your public schools. The levy supports day-to-day operation of schools and items not funded, or not fully funded, by the state and provides about 20% of the general fund budget. Levy dollars are spent directly on services to all students and help pay for classroom teachers and paraeducators to keep class sizes small, all computers and technology in the classroom, half of student transportation costs, all athletic and after-school activity programs and instructional supplies and materials.

    By law levies can only be proposed for a maximum of four years, after that they must be renewed by local voters. School district levies are different than other taxes: voters approve a total amount of money. If property values go up, the rate per thousand goes down.
     
    Levy dollars fund day-to-day expenses, not “extras.” 
     

    Bonds

     
    Bonds are used for capital projects—the construction of new buildings, major renovations or land purchases and are financed for an extended period of time.

    Each time local voters have approved a school bond, every project promised as part of that bond has been completed on time and under budget, including Bonney Lake High School and improvements to the District athletic stadium.

    The Sumner-Bonney Lake School District was upgraded to an A1 bond rating by Moody’s Investors Service, based on the district’s excellence in financial management and planning for future growth in our area. The District sought to improve its bond rating as a savings to taxpayers when bond obligations are paid. Moody’s bond ratings range from AAA to B3. The higher the bond rating, the lower the interest rate.

    As families continue to move into the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District, we need to plan for future schools and new students. Currently developers contribute impact fees for each new single-family house built. Impact fees fund the purchase of portable classrooms to accommodate increased student enrollment, but the fees are not sufficient to cover the cost of new construction or facility modernization.

    Bond dollars may not pay for day-to-day costs of running a school.