To the editor:
Perhaps the school levy of the special election is worthwhile, but the honesty of the school board in presenting their case has less merit. Taxpayers usually trust school authorities, but perhaps they should be more wary.
While it is true that the state inadequately funds education in Washington, the levy rate paid by all those subject to property taxes is 2.116735 per thousand dollars, and most, but not all, school systems supplement education in some way. In all likelihood, when the education funding issue is settled by our politicians, the taxpayers will shoulder an increased state tax levy to adequately fund Washington education.
In the information put out by the school system for voter consideration the shortfall for Bainbridge Island is 23 percent. The school system would have you believe that the underfunding by the state is the reason for the bond issue, however, if that were the case, the system would only have requested an additional tax levy rate of 0.7159544 per thousand. This is less than half of what has been requested. More than $10 million per year was requested, but less than $5 million provides educational supplementation making up for the shortfall. If the taxpayer is asked to spend twice as much as necessary, the school system should present the data justifying its case.
It is not difficult to estimate the cost to the taxpayer on Bainbridge Island for the current tax levy. While there are two proposals, the total over a four-year span is $50.6 million. If there are an estimated 25,000 people living on the island, this works out to greater than $2,000 for each man, woman and child.
There are approximately 9,600 households on the island, and a $50.6 million levy works out to $5,270 for each household. The tax is over a span of four years, so each average household would be paying $1,317 per year or almost $110 a month.
There has been some very creative math on the part of the school system to disseminate the information that this levy will cost the median home $13 a month. This is a new issue even if there was a previous general obligation levy. The voters should be presented with an honest estimate of the tax requested.
The school system indicates you are replacing a current levy, so previous costs should be excluded. This is an interesting concept. It is a new four-year issue and $110 a month on the property tax of a home which in no way represents the value of the median Bainbridge property. Most homes will pay more than this.
The median value of a home on the island currently is about $640,000, or approximately one and a half times that of Kitsap County. However the school system uses the much smaller value of homes in Kitsap County to represent the theoretical homeowner even though the levy affects Bainbridge Island.
This is only a summary of the cost of the levy, it doesn’t address whether the schools need the funds. However, it should be apparent that the school district has been less than candid regarding the real cost of the levy to the taxpayer.
JAMES F. KADLEC