Everett School District Levy and Bond February 13th 2018

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Dear Editor

I am writing about the upcoming Everett School District Levy and Bond on the ballot for February 13th, 2018.

Here are some facts that are persuading me to vote a certain way on both of these measures:

1) We (taxpayers) just voted in 2016 for a bond that included an item to build a new elementary school to help relieve overcrowding at Woodside ES. Last I checked, not a shovel full of dirt has been turned yet for the new school.

2) The district has not thanked us for their administration building that they built a few years ago for themselves with $28 million - funds that we did not approve for that purpose. Unlike the elementary school, the new admin building was built in short order with little fanfare.

3) The district is now "asking" for $500+ million: $300 million for the bond, $200 million for the levy. That's a lot of dough. But still no guarantees on what the money will actually be spent on.

4) The Everett School District seems to be ignoring the McCleary Decision. Basic education is now supposed to be covered by the increased state property tax. Everett is still asking for $200+ million for a levy and is exceeding the $1.50 per $1000 assessed property value limit.

5) We taxpayers are slated to receive our next property tax bill on February 14th. This will be some sticker shock since it has the increased state tax for schools.

6) But we taxpayers are supposed to vote by February 13th - before we have a chance to open and gasp at our state property tax Valentine's Day card in the mail.

7) The Everett School District is singing kumbaya about how everything is just swell and that our taxes will be "stable" through 2022 - as in a stable rate. However no mention that the actual check we write will increase year after year because of our increasing property values. That's not my definition of stable.

8) While we are supposed to acquiesce and hand over 1/2 billion dollars February 13th, we will then face the prospect of the next "teacher contract negotiations" sham this spring. How's that for a thank you and a setup for a poor negotiating position before it even starts? And of course no fall start time has been specified since the district (administrators and teachers union) likes to keep us all in suspense up to a few days before the usual September school start date.

9) Very few citizens/taxpayers understand that the Everett School District teachers and administrators are in the top 2 or 3 (out of 295 school districts) in the state in compensation for their respective school positions. The top 10 paid Everett School District administrators (housed in the new non-voter-approved admin building on Broadway in Everett) collect more than $200,000 annually in pay, health benefits, and pension funding. The top 3 are at or above $250,000 annually. Doing good by doing well.

10) With Everett essentially having the highest paid teachers and the highest paid school administrators in the state, do they really think that we think it is fair as they sit down at the teachers union negotiation meetings and negotiate with our tax moneys while we (taxpayers) are not present?

11) Much of the bond ($216+ million) is said to be for a new high school in the southern most portion of the district. How is it fair to tax working families living in the north part of the district to pay for a shiny, new, state-of-the-art (probably overpriced) high school for the more affluent south part of the district? Shouldn't Everett School District administrators be out in front (due to inaction by the Mill Creek City Council and the City of Everett's legislators) on demanding that construction developers (in their rush to construct houses and apartments willy-nilly) to pay the true marginal costs of increased population in certain areas of the district? Not to mention the increased traffic we all have to sit through because of poor to no urban planning.

Please give the hard facts consideration. And vote accordingly.

Jeff Heckathorn
Mill Creek

More actual facts in response to Jeff Heckathorn

Dear Editor

I am responding to a letter from Jeff Heckathorn about the upcoming Everett School District Levy and Bond on the ballot for February 13th, 2018.  It seems that Jack may not be fully aware  of what the actuall facts are.

1) Quit saying taxpayers as though residents of our school district who do not directly pay property taxes and have children in the school district do not count. That is explicitly wrong. These same residents also vote on these very same levies and bonds and do indirectly pay for those property taxes in their rent.

The 2016 Capital Bond pays to modernize North Middle and Woodside Elementary Schools. The construction on those projects is to BEGIN Spring of 2018.  It is also paying to build a brand new elementary school that is to open in fall 2019 and the site has been bought and is actively being worked at. It is also paying for portable classrooms needed as a result of growth. Your rant about the schedule adds zero to your argument and is simply a distraction.

2) You must be referring to the building built in 2013 that was paid for with CASH and did NOT require a capital bond. The one that saved over $12 million in interest costs. The one with yearly lower utility costs. The one that put all administrators and staffers in the same building instead scattered over the district. The build that allowed for sharing of other physical resources and eliminate of duplicate resources. The one I read about in local newspapers on numerous occasions. That building.

3) Actually what the money is going to be spent for is detailed out quite well in many reports available to the general public and in the voter pamphlets. Maybe you just failed to look for them or read them.

4) You “seem” to be ignoring the fact that we are trying to provide for more than a “basic” education. That $1.50 cap “seems” to refer to a very basic education. Costs that generally are not fully funded by the state basic education includes early learning, summer school, extended day programs, teaching materials and equipment, transportation, music, art, drama, athletics and extracurricular activities, special education, professional training for staff, competitive staff salaries, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, gifted programs and ongoing facilities maintenance, which is what the Everett levy does cover. Now if none of your children or grandchildren are not in need or could benefit from these programs, I guess reading, writing, and arithmetic must be what you want. There is also that uncomfortable fact that the costs to educate a student varies greatly by location. Nobody has ever said or promised that the entire education bill was to be paid for by the state. Also McCleary did not eliminate the option for local levies or bonds. There is also evidence the cap provisions will be lifted by the state his year, so …

5) It is pretty hard to be shocked when we all have had ample opportunity to be informed that there are going to be increases.  By the way, our tax rates will actually be going down starting in 2019.

6) Interestingly, you seem to be ignoring the facts that current levies and bonds go away over time and that this new levy is replacing the old levy and starting in 2019 our property tax bill should go down.

For example the proposed new 2018 EP&O levy is lower than the current 2014 EO&O it will be replacing.  It also appears that the current bond debt is going down each year through 2022. The same is true of the 2016 capital levy. The net effect is actually a total property tax bill for schools that has a 2018 spike and a return to 2017 levels through 2022.

7) I think you need to research exactly how your property taxes are determined, because you comment clearly suggests that you do not know. You property tax bill is determined by a number of factors that include what you current home is accessed at. One is the total budget expenditures for the year. If it goes up and the value of your home does not go up, your bill will go up anyway. If the budget does not go up but your RELATIVE value for you home goes up faster than your neighbor’s home, your taxes will go up and his likely down. At no time does your property tax go up simply because you home valuation goes up. That is a myth.

8) You are trying to conflate two completely separate school funding issues into one. Compensation and capital budgets are two completely separate things. There is no teacher union negotiating connection to building school facilities at all. Pretty sure it will not come up in the negotiations at all. The simple fact that union contract start on September 1st and end on August 31st of a given school year is why you do not have new contracts at other times of the year. This has been the practice for decades. Would you rather it happen during a school year when all of these people are focused on the current school year. That might explain why there are two separate ballot issues to vote on. It also seems pretty clear that you have an anti-union bias

9) Being ignorant of why salaries are higher in the Everett School District might explain why residents of the Everett School District don’t understand what is going on. I wonder if you are familiar with fact that Everett’s is one of twelve school districts that were “Grandfathered” years ago the STATE LEGISLATURE establishing a higher salary schedule and have never rescinded the decision. Maybe you need to talk to them about that. Maybe you should research why they thought was necessary? Maybe you should notice what the cost of living differences are in those twelve districts. Maybe you need to become fully informed.

10) See 9) above. I hate to tell you this, but individual residents are fully represented at all salary negotiations by our duly elected or appointed representatives. It is ridiculous to think that you personally get to be there. You are beginning to sound like an anti-taxer.

11) It is not “said to be for a new high school”, it is actually going to a new high school. Can you explain to all of us why you seem to believe that it is not going to a new high school, because it sure looks like it would be illegal to use that money for anything else? Or ae you trying o create a narrative that doesn’t exist just to stir the pot?

Yes, the new school will indeed “shiny” and “new” and ”state-of-the-art”, because it is after all going to be brand new just like every school ever built in the district was at one time. It will also be state-of-the-art, why would anybody build something new that is not built to state-of-the-art? Why would you want to build something that is “old” and uses what was the state-of-the-art from decades ago? It makes absolutely no sense at all, much like your comment.

The price for the new school compares very favorably with the most recent new North Creek High School built relatively close by. Of course there will be some differences based on what local land prices were at the time of acquisition, whether there had been any eminent domains problems, the actual physical size of the site, site elevations problems, size of the school population served, sharing of any facilities, etc. I am thinking that “probably overpriced” is more an exaggeration on your part

The location of the school is to put it near that part of the school district where the majority of overcrowding and student population growth happening. That just happens to be the southern end of the district and has been so for many years now. It makes no rational sense to locate it anywhere else. Are you suggesting it should be built in Everett so we can now bus students to the North end of the district? It has nothing to do with affluence and you full well know that. If you didn’t, then you do now.

Your rants about mitigation fees for development are well and good and I agree with you. They should have been 2 to 3 times higher for the past two decades. Of course, home prices would have been higher, because that is how it works. Also, many older homes never paid those fees in the first place. The problem is that it really has nothing to do with the education of our children and is nothing more than a distraction from actual immediate educational needs. It is no more than a “poison pill” argument. This is a growth management problem. It sounds like you think that urban sprawl is a good thing.

Please give the real facts consideration. And vote accordingly.

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