The New Taxes and Costs
- This SSD bond proposal adds a 34%+ increase in school district property taxes. With a 20 year loan of $54 MILLION, the interest swells to a staggering approximate $30 million, TOTALING an approximate mind-numbing $84 MILLION taxpayer debt in a district of only 29,000 men, women and children.
- Nowhere in their promotional literature do bond proponents tell us about the approximate $30 MILLION in interest.
- Taxpayers’ election costs will be approximately $41,000.00. With the bond issue appearing on the ballot FOUR TIMES before, that number swells to approximately $164,000 JUST to place it on the ballot! Had the SSD placed a reasonable bond amount on the ballot in the first place, most of that wasted money could have been used toward upgrades and maintenance.
- City residents have been hit with continuing increases in city utilities. PUD commissioners just raised customers’ bills by 10% and gave the manager a $6,500 yearly raise.
- Lending institutions recommend no more than 25% of household budgets for housing.
- Currently, 45% of homeowners and 51% of renters spend 30% or more of their income for housing.
- When we add a nearly 35% school property tax increase to the other increases in taxes and fees, taxation reach an unsupportable level for many homeowners in our school district, an amount much larger than the 25% recommended for housing.
- The school district should join the push to get our timber revenues which would fund millions to our local schools. (Our county-owned, state-controlled (Dept. of Natural Resources) timberlands have fallen far short of the amount in timber that was agreed upon by the state to be cut and sold over the past 10 years, which money goes entirely to the county for schools, fire districts and other junior taxing districts. This issue is currently under review, thanks to the Home Rule Charter Commission, which called for a review and the possibility of returning county-owned lands to county control, where the timber would be cut, sold, and used for schools and other subtaxing districts. There was a shortfall of millions of dollars, which would certainly held fund necessary school maintenance and additions with a smaller, more affordable bond issue.)
SSD Lacks a Tax Base to Support the Bond
- Clallam County has a 9.3% unemployment rate, compared to 6.3% statewide average.
- Median household income in Clallam County is $46,033, compared to state median of $49,578 and local per capita is $26,000 and lower than in 2008.
- During last October, 2230 residents tried to find work here.
- Businesses continue to close their doors in Clallam County. Interfor, Green Creek Wood Products, Kenmore Air, Union Bank, Precision Truss, a backbone of the local construction, Nippon Paper laying off approximately 25 employees and that’s just the more significant businesses.
- Won’t increases in property taxes only discourage businesses from settling here, discourage local investing, and add burdens on businesses trying to survive?
County Demographics: Would a New High School Attract Doctors?
- Welfare state interference in our health care system produces a major obstacle to attracting doctors to our county.
- Meager and steadily declining Medicare and Medicaid doctor reimbursements for care significantly discourage students from become doctors. Rewards do not match extensive responsibility and effort.
- Since 2000, median age in the county is 50 compared to Washington State’s median of 38 years.
- Since 2000, ages 35-49 have declined 19%
- Since 2000, ages 55-69 has increased 61%; ages 84 + by 64%.
- Instead of locating in Clallam County, why wouldn’t doctors settle in areas with young populations in better economic locations that can properly support medical practice?
- Bond proponents’ claim that we need to build new schools to attract doctors is mistaken. Doctors don’t need to rely on public schools for their family’s education. Doctors could use private schools, tutors, or home schooling for their children.
Bond Effects: Young Families, Older Populations
- Since 2000, home ownership has decreased and the percentage of renters has increased.
- Seventy-one percent of our county’s population own homes, 29% rent.
- A 35% increase will hinder the ability of renters and young families in small homes and needing larger living space from saving for larger homes.
- Shouldn’t we consider the effects of cramped living on families’ quality of life?
- Young home-owning parents with families and trying to make ends meet are not eligible for tax exemptions.
- This bond will seriously affect many retirees on fixed incomes.
- For retirees, finding investment opportunities with growing earnings to keep pace with expenses becomes increasingly difficult.
- Bond proponents’ advice for older people to apply for tax exemptions only shifts a larger tax burden to others.
- Homeowners without mortgages are ineligible for mortgage deductions on their income taxes.
- Should we expect aging populations with limited incomes to pay an ever increasing property tax bill?
Workforce participation rates are declining. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, is down 4.6% since the end of the recession in 2003. Folks are feeling pretty strapped, and with good reason.
Maintenance and Operation Levies
- The board pays our superintendent a salary at least as high as that of 40 state governors and more than 3 times the amount the average citizen in Clallam earns, but has not provided for fundamental maintenance. Beyond pathetic! (See more information below.)
- The U.S. Government Accounting Office advises that timely maintenance and periodic renovation render old buildings as serviceable as new buildings.
- Out of the last M&O levy of $5.78 million, only $361,000.00 was spent on maintenance, only 16% of the total (See chart here).
- If the school board requested a levy specifically for a reasonably priced essential renovation for health and safety reasons, the community would likely be supportive.
- Not spending money on maintenance is purposeful neglect. Why should the schools worry about maintenance when they just go to the voters every few years. There is nothing in the current Sequim request or more money that will be devoted to maintenance.
- Shouldn’t health, safety, and preventive maintenance to preserve buildings be priorities for use of M&O levy funds?
According to the chart below, Washingtonians are paying 9.3 times more in property taxes in 2014 than they did in 1976 (($1,975,407 minus $191,307) divided by $191,307). According to the Consumer Price Index, prices and presumably wages have risen 4.2 times over the same period of time (it took $4,160 in 2014 to purchase what $1,000 purchased in 1976). In other words, WA State property taxes have risen 2.24 times more than inflation (9.3 divided by 4.2). But there’s more; the amount education is getting from Local M&O Levies has grown more than what they‘re getting from property taxes. Taxpayers are paying 11.8 times more for Local M&O Levies in 2014 than they were in 1976 (($2,138,425 minus $167,401) divided by $167,401). That is 2.83 times more than the rate of inflation (11.8 divided by 4.2).
So adjusted for inflation and assuming education is getting the same percentage of state property taxes in 2014 as it was in 1976, education is getting almost 3 times more than it was 39 years ago. Meanwhile student achievement is flat-lined or declining. If bigger government is the answer, it was a very stupid question. Read the article by former Attorney General Rob McKenna: “Yes, your levy dollars are being spent improperly.”
Sequim School Enrollment Continues to Decline
- SSD enrollment continues to decline overall.
- Over the past 10 years, combined enrollments dropped from 2,900 to 2,600, a loss of 300 students.
- Since 2000, ages 5-14 have decreased 11% in Clallam County.
- Are we wise to burden the taxpayers with $84 million for new construction while enrollment drops and our younger population declines?
Education: Spending “For the Kids”
- We already spend 49% of our local taxes on education.
- Washington State spends $10,063 per student annually. Multiplied by 13 grade levels. At current rates, we spend $130,800 on each student for a K-12 education.
- Since 2001, state spending for education K-12 has climbed 51% in Washington.
- Forty-nine percent of Washington state’s budget goes to education.
- Since 1994, the total educational spending in our state has increased to 79% in our state (federal, state, and local).
- If the school district received 25% more local education and we doubled the amount on levies, would the school board be satisfied and not ask for more? When does a government agency every stop asking for more?
- We must set priorities and essentials in our household budgets, and similarly for our school district, especially in hard economic times.
- A realistic starting point might be reduction of administrator’s salaries.
- We can understand that school district administrators believe taxpayers can afford a 35% increase in school taxes by looking at their salaries.
Unrealistic, Unaffordable Administrative Salaries
- Should the SSD superintendent heading our relatively very small school district receive a higher salary than 24 state governors?
- We find evidence that our school board pays excessive administrator salaries without first providing priorities for preventative maintenance on buildings.
- Should a superintendent’s salary relate in some way to enrollment figures (2,600) and number of the district’s taxpayers?
- Shouldn’t our school board members establish realistic administrative salaries before asking more from taxpayers?
- While educational spending escalates, student outcomes remain unimpressive.
Total compensation for Sequim School District Administrator -$143,116.00. (Salary $133,900 + benefits) Deputy/Assistant Superintendent compensation – $127,216.00. (Salary $118,000 + benefits) As a comparison, the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and six State Governors earn $120,000 (2015). Eight State Governors earn between $110,000-$120,000 (2014). 9 State Governors earn $100,000-$110,000 (2014). Six State Governors earn $90-$100,000. And Maine’s governor earns $70,000 (2014). To review all salaries for administrative and teachers’ positions, go to: http://data.spokesman.com/salaries/schools/2015/24-sequim-school-district/
- Should we pay administrators what we can reasonably afford or what administrators earn in other districts with different economic situations?
- Fox News reported that growing trend is to consider school superintendents as CEOs. This defective reasoning fails a reality check.
- Taxpayers pay public school administrators’ salaries.
- Fox News reports, “Moreoever, a growing number of school supers are retiring early to double dip, meaning they retire, pocket their pensions, and then quickly get rehired elsewhere as school supers consultants or administrators, earning double pay.”
According to Fox: “The housing market collapsed in 2008 — but property tax bills didn’t. In fact, property taxes continued to rise in many parts of the country by 40% or more. “Why? One big reason: Increasing school costs, including growing pay packages for school superintendents now at record levels, putting a strain on taxpayers and school budgets. “A growing number of school superintendents are now the highest paid government employees in the country, earning gold-plated compensation in the mid-six-figure range. That pay is often ten times what their teachers get paid—and often double the salaries governors get to run entire states. School superintendents get paid more than governors in a dozen states: New Jersey, New York, California, Ohio, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington, FOX Business has found.” READ MORE >>> (http://www.foxbusiness.com/government/2013/03/19/superintendent-pay-at-top-class/)
The SSD School Buildings
- Did you know that public school students now use 73 schools constructed between 1639 and 1869?
- Only public sector bureaucrats would say a 30-40 year old public building has exhausted its “life-span.”
- Sixty plus years ago, were the taxpayers told the buildings they were expected to finance with their hard-earned dollars would have a 30-40 “life span” and be demolished in about 60 years?
- Do taxpayers build or buy their homes thinking these homes will last 30-40 years?
- If private homes had “life spans,” and we were typically demolished after 60 years or so, how many homes in the United States would currently require demolition and replacement?
- Because building codes continually change, buildings quickly fall below codes.
Common Sense Conscience-based Conclusions
- Instead of wishful thinking, in the future, SSD should use common sense and base decisions on current economic conditions and amounts taxpayers can afford without risk to their own financial stability and peace of mind.
- Proponents of the $84 million school bond debt should accept the reality of the economically depressed situation in our county, establish essential priorities, and pursue only essential upgrades.
- The safety and health of students must come first while they are learning the fundamentals at school.
- Regular, timely, building maintenance is vital to efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
- When our school board decides to ask for a very small bond for essential upgrades, we hope they will arrange for local contractors and local construction workers to complete the work.
- Our school board should recognize that the taxpayers know best how to spend their own earnings.
- The solution to our economic decline is: Stop the taxing; reduce taxation!
- Stop and reduce the regulations!
- If we create a business-friend environment, Clallam County residents can grow, prosper, and attract a younger population better able to support doctors, investors, and new business.
- Every taxpayer dollar government takes could be spent by the taxpayers exercising freedom of choice for products or services that provide employment.
- A desirable quality of life depends on freedom of the individual to use property according to their needs.
- Responsible household management requires living within our means. As parents, we teach our children to do likewise.
- We should seek to avoid forcing tax burdens on our neighbors and our business population that they would not choose.
- Overextending our own financial obligations does not create positive situations “for the kids” or our community.
- We must oppose this grossly unrealistic, 20 year, $59 million bond proposal adding $30 million in interest, totaling $84 million in taxpayer debt.
- Passage of this excessive, unrealistic bond will become a regrettable mistake for our community, so we ask voters to reject this proposal.
“Old” Buildings and Beautiful Old Buildings
We’ve seen hundreds of beautiful “old” buildings in use, but we’ve never seen buildings in disrepair that are beautiful. We’ve admired old builds made beautiful and serviceable with restoration and timely maintenance. Across the United States, millions of students still learn in buildings constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, properly maintained and upgraded when necessary. Some of these “old” buildings are those where we sat in our desks learning 40, 50, and 60 years ago. Do students still learn in the “old” school you attended? Can you find your “old” school?