In an effort to ensure school districts across the state receive equal treatment when raising funds through special levies, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, yesterday introduced a measure that proposes to provide state financial assistance for the full amount of funds a district can raise.
“A good portion of school funding is tied to property taxes,” Honeyford said. “What that means is that poorer districts are disadvantaged simply because property values are lower in their neighborhoods. To me, that’s unfair.”
Honeyford’s proposal, Senate Bill 6080, would require the state to kick in full dollar assistance when the cost of raising special levy dollars is higher than the state average.
All school districts are permitted to independently raise up to 24 percent of the funds provided by the state through special levies. However, property owners in less wealthy school districts must pay a higher percent of property taxes to reach the 24 percent.
The state currently matches the money raised by these districts when the costs are above the state average, but this assistance is only provided on the first 12 percent of local funds raised, not the permissible 24 percent.
Honeyford’s bill proposes full assistance for the entire 24 percent.
“The result of our current system is a disparity between schools,” Honeyford said. “For some school districts, it’s harder to pass the special levy. Ultimately they can’t reach the full 24 percent they are allowed to raise. What I’m offering to do is level the playing field.”
Honeyford, a former school teacher and librarian, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and was elected to the Senate in 1998.