Levy Cliff Explanation

  • What is the Levy Cliff?

     February 1, 2017—State legislators are currently working on a state budget that could have a major negative impact on school budgets statewide.

    An issue of major consequence is whether lawmakers will leave in place the ability for school districts to collect the same amount of local levy funding that they’ve been able to collect since 2010. In 2010, the Legislature helped recession-battered school districts by increasing their taxing limit from 24 percent to 28 percent of what they receive in state and federal funding. Local voters in the Renton School District have approved of the increase by passing local school levies by as much as 65 percent yes votes.

    Next January, the limit is set to revert to its previous level (back down to 24%). Many are referring to this as the “levy cliff.” In real levy dollars, the loss to school districts would total an estimated $358 million in 2018. In the Renton School District, that loss is an estimated $11 million.

    Lawmakers could spare schools a lot of anxiety and deep budget cuts by removing the threat of the levy cliff immediately, and keeping the local levy collection rate at 28%: Again, local voters have already approved that funding through the district’s 2016 levy election.

    Meantime, Washington’s 295 school districts are captive to a calendar that forces them to start writing their 2017-18 budgets now. They have no choice but to plan for the worst-case scenario, which means teacher and staff layoff notices could (by state law) begin in mid-May.


    • Levy collection numbers for Renton School District (28% levy approved by local voters through 2019)
      • 2017 calendar year $46,552,938 (levy at 28%)
      • 2018 calendar year $48,100,490 (levy at 28%)

    $36,717,979 (levy back down to 24%—levy cliff)      

    • 2019 calendar year $49,466,670 (levy at 28%)

                                                                                              $37,808,641 (levy back down to 24%-levy cliff)

    • Impact of Levy Reduction (cliff)
      • 2017-18 school year $5.6 million
      • 2018-19 school year $11.5 million