Freedom Foundation

Levy for Pay Increases

Each summer, many school districts negotiate with the union to decide how to spend the levy funds. Obviously, successful negotiation on the union’s part would mean improved wages and lighter workloads.

Each February, many school districts ask citizens to pass a local property tax levy for operations.

I recently analyzed the limited data from the state about what portion of districts’ levies are used for employee pay increases—also called “wage enhancements.” You can find the complete list, including information for your school district, here

Go here to find out how much of your levy tax goes toward employee wage enhancements in your school district.

The column labeled “Base Salary” is the average amount the state provides for certificated instructional staff (teachers, specialists, etc). The “additional salary per full time employee (FTE)” shows how much—on average—is provided in supplemental contracts or other enhancements to wages.

These supplements might be for an extra responsibility like a coaching position, summer school, or other time-specific jobs. The largest portion of these additional salaries, however, funds the “Time Responsibility Incentive” (TRI) pay negotiated by union officials. This money is primarily additional compensation for the same 180 days’ work that the state salary already covers. 

These funds come almost entirely from levies, but some districts that struggle to pass large levies receive levy matching funds from the state (Local Effort Assistance) or federal government (federal Impact Aid).

The last column shows what portion of the levy and levy matching funds is required to cover the total cost of these wage enhancements.

For example, Mukilteo School District is a district with very high TRI pay—averaging over $22,000 per teacher. When school directors and union officials make such a decision, they must also find a way to pay for it. The solution? Levy funds. In Mukilteo, 49 percent of the levy covers these TRI costs.

But what do families get for this investment? What services did Mukilteo formerly provide that have now been cut or charged to parents as a result of diverting levy funds to wage enhancements?

So when the levy campaign tells you how much levy money goes “to the classroom,” keep in mind they might mean it goes to the bank account of the person in the classroom and not to any additional help for students.