Bellevue-based Seattle King County Realtors voted overwhelmingly to endorse a levy funding request from the Kent School District on the Feb. 11 Special Election ballot.
The realtor association, which has more than 7,000 members, emailed a news release Thursday to support the levy.
The Kent School District proposal is a two-year renewal Educational Program & Operations Levy that will replace the current levy voters approved in 2018 and have supported for more than three decades, according to the district website.
The proposed renewal levy rate is $2.15 per $1,000 in assessed home valuation for two years. The maximum amount that can be collected in 2021 is $69 million. The maximum amount that can be collected in 2022 is $76.2 million.
Taxpayers will pay a combined approximate tax rate of $3.83 for all district measures (for 2016 bond debt service and the 2018 Technology and Capital Levy) in 2021 and 2022 if the proposed renewal levy is approved. The owner of a home valued at $600,000 would pay $1,290 per year in 2021 and 2022, according to the district.
The school district does not collect more money if property values increase. The levy would raise a maximum of $145.25 million over two years.
Local funding provides about 11 percent of the district’s annual budget, according to the district website. The state provides about 79 percent and the federal government about 5 percent with the remaining from a variety of fees, grants and donations.
King County Elections will mail ballots Jan. 22 for the Feb. 11 election.
If approved by a majority of the voters, the funding would help pay for:
• Student safety and school security
• Career readiness programs including opportunities for exploration acceleration and remediation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM)
• Bullying prevention and social-emotional learning programs
• Educational support for students with special needs
• Daily operations to support clean, healthy, and well-maintained schools and classrooms
• Professional development for teachers, paraeducators, principals and educational support staff
• Essential staff such as classroom teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers, and bus drivers not fully funded by the state
Realtor Dahni Malgarini-Logar, managing broker at RE/MAX Integrity in Kent, said the levy will provide essential funding to support the educational and career-readiness needs of all students districtwide, regardless of their abilities, backgrounds, or family income.
“As a realtor, I understand the connection between quality schools and home values,” she said. “Approving this levy would be a sound investment for the future of our children and the desirability of the communities served by the district. Top-performing schools are a priority for parents, but they also benefit both buyers and sellers of real estate.”
At a meeting with members of Seattle King County Realtors Governmental & Public Affairs Committee, citizen activist Leslie Hamada, newly elected president of the Kent School Board, explained the financing request, the importance of closing the funding gap between state funding and district needs, and the impact on taxpayers. She noted the proposed levy rate would allow the district to keep the overall tax rate constant, including the EP&O levy renewal for two years, the bond debt service and the voter-approved 2018 Technology and Capital Levy.
Prior to acting on the endorsement requests, Seattle King County Realtor committee members reviewed responses to a detailed, five-part questionnaire, which covered basic information about the proposal, the involvement of citizens in the process, the impact on property owners and the campaign plan.
Sam Pace, a realtor who lives in the Kent School District, said a 2017 National Association of Realtors report found 26% of home buyers considered the quality of schools when looking for a new home. Schools aren’t the only determinant of home prices ̶ safety, commute times, jobs, and housing inventory all play a part in any market. But a good home in a good school district can fetch a higher price, and also hold a better resale value than a similar home in a less-stellar district. In fact, said Pace, “Economists have estimated that within suburban neighborhoods, a 5% improvement in test scores can raise home prices by 2.5%,” according to the New York Times.
Numerous other studies also indicate quality schools have a direct and positive influence on residential property values, said David Crowell, director of governmental and public affairs at Seattle King County Realtors.
Crowell cited a 2013 realtor.com survey that found over 90% of home buyers said school boundaries are “important” or “somewhat important,” and that many are willing to go over budget if it means they will locate in a desirable school district. Other research suggests homes in good school districts hold their value better in economic downturns, he said.
In addition to endorsing the Kent School District proposal, the Government Affairs Committee also voted to support Feb. 11 funding requests from the Bellevue School District and the Tahoma School District in Maple Valley.