What does the operations levy specifically pay for?
Our upcoming replacement operations levy supports teaching and learning: pays for teachers; counselors; nurses and other staff; lowers class sizes; and provides arts, music, athletics and other programs for the whole child. It also funds other basic operations and programs such as safety, Special Education, English Language Learner and highly capable programs; supports food services and wellness; pays for nurses and counselors; and supports field trips and Project Free Education.
What does the technology capital levy specifically pay for?
The technology capital levy is a fundamental part of our instructional program that pays for computers; classroom technologies; adaptive technologies for children with special needs; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) resources; career and technical education (CTE) supports; staff who maintain equipment and provide training; and software and curriculum licensing. Beyond technical devices, digital citizenship, education of online safety, empathy and responsibility are included. Professional development and support for staff is also included in the levy. The technology levy also supports school safety measures; replacement maintenance equipment and vehicles; portables and windows in our some of our schools.
How much money total will the school district collect? Could these numbers change over the four-year life of the levy?
For the replacement operations levy, we will collect approximately $31 million in 2021; $32 million in 2022; $33.5 million in 2023 and $35 million in 2024.
For the replacement technology capital levy, we will collect $16.7 million in 2021, $16.4 million in 2022; $16.3 million in 2023 and $16 million in 2024.
The total amount for both levies will not exceed the total amount collected per year, but the total amount of the operations levy collected could decrease if enrollment drops (our numbers assume enrollment will increase) because the state has placed a limit on school districts, which for us is a collection of $2,500 per student. A homeowner could see their tax rate decrease if assessed value increases. In 2019, the district’s local levy tax rate decreased because of a “levy lid,” or restriction, the state imposed on school districts. The state recently increased that lid to allow school districts across the state to collect a little more. The levy rate is anticipated to decrease over the duration of the levies.
What is the impact?
The replacement operations levy and replacement technology capital levy total between $47–51 million per year for each of the four years. For example, for a home at Bellingham’s median property value ($375,000), the change in total bond and levy rates will result in an increase of approximately $10.94* per month in 2021, then the combined rate decreases over the duration of the levies.
Actual combined bond and levy rate
2017 actual: $4.81
2018 actual: $4.55
2019 actual: $3.57
Projected combined bond and levy rate*
2020 projected: $3.60
2021 projected: $3.95
2022 projected: $3.91
2023 projected: $3.68
2024 projected: $3.66
*Estimated total school district combined bond and levy rate per $1000 assessed value. The rates are estimates based upon data from the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office available in January 2020.
I thought the state “fixed” K-12 public education funding. Why do we need levies?
The state funds what it calls a “prototypical model” for K-12 public education. We do not believe their model meets our standards for what is best for students and our community. An example of where our local community’s standards are higher than the state’s model is nursing. The state funds 1.8 nurses for 12,000 students across 22 schools. We fund an additional 6.2 nurses to serve our students. There are many other examples of deficiencies in the state funding model. See the answer to the above question “what does the replacement operations levy pay for?” 88% of all the money collected through levies pays for staffing.
What is the difference between a levy and a bond?
An easy way to remember the difference is that levies are for learning and bonds are for building. Levies can be used to support salaries, programs, software, hardware, curriculum, services and more. They can also be used for staffing that supports the application and implementation of technology. Bond dollars are restricted to our capital facility rebuilds and improvements and any other expenses related to our schools and buildings.
Can you explain 1:1 (one laptop per student)? What does that mean?
For the upcoming replacement tech levy, we are continuing our one-to-one (1:1) technology program, which provides one laptop per student, to support learning and prepare students for the future. Our current 1:1 technology model provides middle and high school students a device for classroom and take-home use. Each student in grades 3 to 5 use classroom-based devices.
Some students already have and use personal devices, but many do not. Providing our students with mobile technology reinforces our commitment to equity. The tech levy also supports the upgrading and replacement cycle for devices. We believe greater access to technology will provide better efficiency, organization, collaboration and possibility for our students, teachers and families. Technology is not a replacement for great teaching; it is an important tool to enhance daily learning.
Why does the district need funding for its maintenance equipment and vehicles?
The state legislature is allowing school districts to use funds collected through capital levies to pay for vehicles and equipment for a short two-year window. We have an aging fleet of vehicles used by our buildings and grounds staff and technicians, including trucks and vans that are over 30 years old. If our community approves these levies, in 2021, we will purchase more efficient, cleaner and safer vehicles, and in some cases, hybrids. Levy dollars would also provide new mowers for our staff to help maintain fields and outdoor spaces at our schools and offices.
What should the community know about the school district’s approach to screen time?
We acknowledge that technology, both in and out of the classroom, can be a point of controversy and concern. For every way using a laptop, website or app makes our life more connected and helps us learn and share our learning, families and educators share worries about cyberbullying, lack of human connection and wasted time or lost connection to nature. Our focus is to teach and promote healthy use of technology to support student learning.
In conjunction with our wellness staff, our educational technology team has developed the Healthy Tech Promise. Our vision is to encourage a lifetime of healthy technology by teaching developmentally appropriate technology skills, using technology as a tool to amplify powerful learning experiences, and supporting family and community priorities for digital health. We continue to learn and work on ways for staff to partner better with families to support the use of technology that encourages creativity, supports healthy relationships, and develops essential critical thinking and communication skills.