Following are the responses to questions posed by Michael Dashiell of the Sequim Gazette. They were published in the Gazette and the Peninsula Daily News on Jan. 27, 2016.
Questions and Responses Follow:
What motivated you to create the website?
There are always two sides to an issue. Most, if not all, information published has been pro-bond. Friends and neighbors around the community have expressed their concern about the frequency of this school district with yet another attempt to raise revenue. The concern, of course, is that the bond would result in higher (and often unaffordable) taxes for 20 years – a bond which would total $84 – $94 million with interest. As a result, the website – TT323.org – was created for the purpose of disseminating information in an affordable manner, to share with folks a point of view that reflects why many are opposed to this bond as presented. Putting the website address on every sign allows an easy way for people to contact us, both pro and con, and discuss the various impacts this bond would have on those who will bear the burden of it.
Do you feel the district isn’t addressing key components of the bond proposal? Which parts, and what are the most troubling?
I think the district wants to get as close to their original “wish list” as they can. The world I live in says, “live within your means.” Most families have to live within their budget based on their income. First and foremost, the “needs” should be addressed, like toilets. One wonders why more of the money from the levy for which we are still paying is not used to address some of these needed repairs and upgrades. The last $5.78 million “Maintenance & Operation” levy that we’re still paying has had only $316,000 allocated to “maintenance.” In addition, the legislature is in the process of addressing the school funding issue as mandated by the State Supreme Court. Let’s give the legislature time to work on this before we jam through a 20-year bond on the backs of the local taxpayers.
What kind of responses have your site and signs around town generated?
They seem to be making an impact, mostly favorable. Some have been angry that there is opposition to the bond. Most of the folks we’ve heard from are telling us that they just “can’t afford” any more taxes – many live on a fixed income. When we add a nearly 35% school property tax increase to the other increases in taxes, utilities and fees, taxation reaches an unsupportable level for many homeowners in our school district, an amount much larger than the 25% recommended for housing. Several landlords we’ve talked to say they will have to raise rents, which will hurt our most vulnerable citizens. One person said, “What good is my supporting a huge bond when I’m strapped now to pay my mortgage and taxes. I’ll lose my home if I can’t pay even ‘more’ taxes.”
Would you oppose an amended version of the bond proposal? Or, if you could change what the district is asking for, how would you change the proposal?
It would depend upon what is specifically targeted as “needed”. The costs anticipated in the current bond proposal seem very excessive, perhaps in part because Seattle contractors and suppliers will be getting all the money at the very high Seattle prevailing rates, rather than local labor and businesses. Perhaps by biting this off in smaller pieces, we could employ the local labor force and materials suppliers, to help our economy, rather than that of Seattle.
In other states, rapid expansion of school buildings later produced nothing but empty school buildings. Our student population is in decline. One suggestion would be that the school board actively pursue the county timber money that was earmarked for schools, fire districts, etc. that has not been received. Overall, this amounts to millions of dollars. Currently, there is a shortfall in the promised amount of timber harvest. Our county timber trust lands are currently managed by the State Dept. of Natural Resources. They agreed to cut a certain amount of timber, and they are years in arrears of their agreed-upon harvest. It amounts to a tremendous amount of money that could become available to schools for all purposes, including construction.