Senate budget reveals big wins for Pierce County schools, taxpayers

The Republican-led Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) released a $43 billion budget proposal that fully funds basic education and reforms the school levy system. The changes would mean a big influx of funding for Pierce County schools and big savings for taxpayers, according to Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place.

The proposal creates a statewide flat property tax rate for schools. This would amount to a tax cut compared to current rates for the vast majority of Washington homeowners, including those in Pierce County. The levy rate reductions and impacts on average homeowners in the 28th Leg. District would be:

• Bethel School District levy rate reduction of $3.02/$1000 – $535 savings
• Clover Park School District levy rate reduction of $2.76/$1000 — $555 savings
• Steilacoom Historical School District levy rate reduction of $1.11/$1000 – $279 savings
• Tacoma School District levy rate reduction of $2.74/$1000 – $551 savings
• University Place School District levy rate reduction of $3.21/$1000 – $887 savings

“Taxpayers in my district would save hundreds of dollars with a fairer school levy system,” said O’Ban. “The savings show you just how out of whack and unfair the system has been.”

Pierce County Schools would also see increases in per pupil funding under the MCC plan. Compared to current funding, the state per pupil increases for 28th Legislative District schools would be:

• Bethel School District — increase of $1,120 per pupil
• Clover Park School District — increase of $1,440 per pupil
• Steilacoom Historical School District – increase of $1,690 per pupil
• Tacoma School District— increase of $850 per pupil
• University Place School District — increase of $1,510 per pupil

“This is just a slam dunk for Pierce County schools,” O’Ban said. “This really is a historic effort.”

Mental health investments are also emphasized by the MCC plan. The budget allocates an additional $250 million over four years for mental health and provides for 300 additional long-term beds, 96 beds for crisis walk-in centers, and 96 more psychiatric beds at community hospitals. To assist those experiencing mental illness, at least one of six new crisis walk-in/stabilization centers will be located in Pierce County.
Pierce County is also the beneficiary of new investments in UW Tacoma. $400,000 has been targeted to help build the UW Tacoma branch graduate program.