In Response to Jeff Heckatorn’s letter to the editor on the Everett School District Levy and Bond vote on February 13, 2018
Mr. Heckathorn’s letter had 11 main points with a lot of misinformation and a lot of negative emotion against our school district leadership, teachers, and staff. I am hoping to correct the misinformation.
1) Concern that no progress is being made on elementary #18: Ground will be broken at the new school in April, on plan. There is extensive work that needs to be done after a Bond is approved and before construction can begin on any project.
2) Concern about the lack of voter approval for construction of the Community Resource Center(CRC): Any projects funded with Bond funds, are built according to what is stated in the Bond proposal. The CRC was built with State Construction Assistance Funds and district rental income and miscellaneous funds- NOT Bond or Levy funds. https://www.everettsd.org/Page/24050 I personally received 2 phone calls from the SD that explained the process and got my feedback. I was in complete support because the one building would have all the district offices under one modern, energy efficient building near the center of the district instead of scattered throughout in older, less-efficient structures.
3) Concern about Bond and Levy money being used for other purposes than stated: The money collected thru a Bond or Levy must be used for the items as stated.
4) Not understanding that the State is NOT YET fully funding education: That is a much longer educational piece, including the fact that the State is currently working on fixing holes they left with last year's decision. Their work is not done, yet schools need to be able to hire and pay teachers when school starts in September. However, if you look at the current rules-- http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=84.52.0531 according to RCW 84.52.0531, the $1.50/$1000 assessed value is the limit on “enrichment levy levels”. The current levy up for vote is a replacement operational levy, that falls under the formula at the top of the page in the link.
5) Concern about the rise in property taxes with the changes from the State: Property taxes will go up for 2018 and then down again in 2019 when money for THIS Bond and Levy begin to be collected.
6) Concern that we need to vote before getting the tax bill: Yes. Everett is not the only district with items up for vote this month. Pushing projects further off in the future will mean that new construction will not be ready to open in September 2022. Each vote costs the district money in advertising, ballots, etc. The Bond vote needs to be in February, so that is when the Levy vote will be.
7) Concern about the actual amount owed thru property taxes not being stable: The $ you pay in taxes will go up if your home value goes up. The % to the school will stay even. They own homes here too. They understand. The school district helps to improve the value of your home by having award-winning schools. If our schools were doing poorly, people would work harder to find homes in neighboring districts and your home value would decrease, thus decreasing the amount you pay in taxes. I would rather have high quality schools and pay a bit more.
8) Concern about a new teacher contract for September: Pay, contracts, and the calendar in part need to wait until the State figures out how to retain and attract new teachers. The State has a shortage. Part of the work being done in Olympia right now is addressing how to deal with that. We have been fortunate that the last negotiations were for 3 school years.
9) Concern that school district administrators get paid too much: Again, the funding for teachers, staff, and administration is being worked out in Olympia. Personally, I don't have a problem with our district leaders getting paid what they deserve. They work 7 days/week dealing with issues that can come up at any time. On top of that our schools are preforming far above the State averages and our graduation rates have improved. We get the quality and commitment that we pay for and I am personally happy with the results.
10) Concern that the Teachers Union will debate pay levels while tax payers have no input: So, you want to be part of the teacher union discussion??
11a) Concern about the south end of the district getting more from the Bond than the north end: Well, if we don't build a new school, we will likely need to push part of the student population north so that all of our high schools are crowded. The Bond has benefits to students across the district. The STEM programs at Everett and Cascade sound amazing! The remodel work at Everett has been needed for at least 5 years. The additional K-3 classrooms are needed to get the state mandated class size.
11b) Concerned that local officials should be doing more to get developers to pay higher mitigation fees: Getting developers to contribute more $/house or unit needs to come from the State. It is on the long list of items our representatives need to address. Write them and let them know you want them to do that work sooner rather than later.
I know the facts. I've been to many of the discussions on the Bond and Levy. I've followed the discussion in Olympia. I’ve taken 3 classes (trying) to understand how education is funded at the State level. I am voting YES for the Bond and YES for the Levy. To do otherwise will hurt all the students in the district.