Levies, bonds and property taxes
The funding of schools is a complicated and frequently misunderstood process. School districts get the bulk of their operating revenue from three sources: the state, the federal government, and from local property tax levies. The state provides about two-thirds of the school district’s revenue. The state pays for the cost of basic education because the Washington state constitution identifies education as the state’s “paramount duty.” The federal government provides another 10 percent of the revenue and helps pay for activities such as special education and programs that support disadvantaged students.
The rest of the school district’s operating revenue, about 24 percent of the total, comes from local property taxes through the Educational Maintenance and Operations Levy. There are other voter-approved levies, too. Money from a Facilities and Technology Levy and from a Capital Projects Fund Levy is used in the school district’s capital budget to maintain, modernize and renovate buildings and technology, and money from a Transportation Vehicle Fund levy pays for new school buses. Voters also approved construction bond proposals in May 2000, February 2014, and February 2020 that are being paid from property taxes.
This two-minute video helps explain the difference between bonds and levies.