House budget would strike levy accountability provisions enacted earlier this year

Earlier this year, the House passed an education funding plan (HB 1843). The House-passed 2017–19 operating budget would not fund that bill; instead, it would fund HB 2185. HB 2185 has not been heard by committee.

It is largely the same as HB 1843, but there are a few noteworthy changes. First, as we’ve noted about the broader budget bill, it would suspend I-1351 (class-size reductions) for two years. This means the initiative would have to be 50 percent funded in the 2021–23 biennium and fully funded by the end of 2023–25. (HB 1843 would begin to fund I-1351 as currently scheduled in 2019–21.)

The second change has to do with local levy accountability. In March, the Legislature passed and the governor signed ESB 5023. The legislation allows school districts to continue to have local maintenance and operation levies of up to 28 percent of their revenues in 2018. The Senate included accountability provisions in the bill. For 2018 and thereafter, levy collections must be deposited into a separate fund so that districts can account for how levy revenues are spent. Also, to ensure that M&O levies are not used for basic education, the office of the superintendent of public instruction must approve the programs that would be funded by any M&O levy before it is put to voters.

These provisions apparently caused some confusion for legislators and school districts; but, as we wrote in our report on the Senate-passed education funding plan, safeguards like these could help keep the state from becoming too reliant on local funds again in the future. HB 2185 would strike these accountability provisions from the law. 

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