Bainbridge school officials look at impacts of new state budget

With the state’s passage of a $43.7 billion state budget, Bainbridge Island school officials are grappling to understand what new school funding means for public schools on the island.

What’s clear, though, is that property taxes across Washington will rise next year with the adoption of the new budget, which state lawmakers hailed as a compromise spending plan that will push $7.3 billion more toward Washington schools and level out funding for school districts across the state.

Bainbridge Island School District Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen said this week that he and his staff were working to understand what the new budget will mean for the island’s schools.

“It’s a big bill. There’s a lot of different parts to it,” he said.

“We’re working with our folks to analyze the different implications for our district in terms of funding and the funding sources and the strings that are attached,” Bang-Knudsen said. “We anticipate in the next week or so that we’ll have a better understanding of that.”

A piece of that assessment will be a look at the district’s tax levies in the future.

“Part of what’s happened is there’s going to be less capacity at the local level to raise local dollars, and we’re going to have more funding from the state, and so we really have to take a look and get down into the details in terms of what are the strings that are attached to this additional funding that’s coming from the state. What won’t we be able to fund locally and so what does that mean?” the superintendent said.

While the effects of the new budget on students remains to be seen, the repercussions for property owners on Bainbridge Island is very clear, an estimated $490 in increased taxes next year.

That puts Bainbridge fifth on the list of school districts that will see the highest increases to property taxes next year; just behind the fourth-place Lake Washington School District on Seattle’s Eastside ($520 increase in 2018), and above sixth-place Seattle ($460).

The estimated increases are based on the median value of a single family home; for Bainbridge Island, that is $567,400 in 2018.

Under the adopted state budget, the new property tax increases on Bainbridge will continue to rise in the following three years, to $660 in 2019, to $700 in 2020, and $730 in 2021.

Property owners in other districts across the state will see property tax decreases in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

State lawmakers said the budget, which was signed last week by Gov. Jay Inslee, should satisfy the demands made by the state Supreme Court for more funding of public schools in the court’s McCleary case.

“This is a historic budget that I believe fully funds our schools for the first time in decades and will meet our constitutional obligations,” Inslee said in a press release.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said Democrats didn’t want to put so much of the tax increases on the shoulders of property owners — the new budget includes tax breaks for businesses, but not new taxes on income or capital gains as Democrats wanted — but they had no choice.

“This budget makes the biggest investment in education in a generation and reflects the core values that Democrats have advocated for throughout this process,” Rolfes said in a statement.

“It ensures more equity between low- and high-income districts and students and provides additional funds for students with individual needs,” said Rolfes, who was one of the education funding negotiators and also served as a negotiator on the state operating budget.

“Of course, no budget is perfect, and the reliance primarily on property taxes for funding was not what Democrats wanted but unfortunately was all the Republicans would consider,” she said. “In the end, kids and educators will see $7.3 billion more dollars going into their schools over the next four years, and that is an enormous win for the students of our state.”

School districts facing the highest property tax increases:

Mercer Island: $970

Bellevue: $600

Issaquah: $560

Lake Washington: $520

Bainbridge Island: $490

Seattle: $460

Shaw: $450

Snoqualmie: $420

Vashon Island: $400