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Supporting Our Public School Levies

Spokane School Levies

Fourteen area public school districts will have a levy on the Feb. 14 ballot (which drops in the mail Jan. 27). These levies fund vital programs and resources, such as textbooks, teaching materials, extracurricular activities, classified support staff and a lot more.

The levies will fund bus transportation and vital programs and resources, such as textbooks, teaching materials, extracurricular activities, classified support staff and a lot more.

The Executive Committee of Greater Spokane Incorporated voted on behalf of the Board of Trustees to support the school levies.

Here’s why:

Quality public schools are essential to maintain a vibrant community. Today’s students are tomorrow’s small business owners, CEOs, employees and more. Providing them the learning tools and skills today will help them transition to post-secondary education and their careers later in life.

Recently, Providence Health & Services announced it will be bringing 250 jobs to Spokane. An article in The Spokesman-Review stated:

“The health care programs offered at area colleges and universities ensure that Spokane has a pool of qualified workers and opportunities for further educational training.

‘That’s a big part of why the Providence board looked to Spokane,” said Providence spokeswoman Sharon Fairchild.’”

With the proper training tools in elementary, middle and high school, as well as at our colleges, universities, and vocational and technical schools, companies will be more confident in selecting Spokane as a place to do business and hire our area workforce.

GSI’s K-12 Roundtable works to drive education initiatives, while our Higher Education Leadership Group (HELG) focuses on higher education issues. Both groups bring educators and the business community together.

In the case of the upcoming replacement levies, the business community will benefit by having a talented workforce pool to choose from. If these levies fail, our students will not be properly prepared, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education will be impacted, high school dropout programs could be cut, and other programs and services will simply go away. A key economic driver is an educated child.

Local Effort Assistance (LEA) allows property-poor school districts to receive extra financial assistance from the state so the public education tax burden is more equitably shared among property poor and property rich districts. In Governor Gregoire’s proposed budget, LEA funding was completely cut. We don’t know what the final LEA funding amount will be once the legislative session is over, but it’s clear that these school levies are more important than ever to keep our public schools functioning in a way that fully supports the needs of our students. We do not want to put extra burden on our public school districts.

The bottom line: Levy funding contributes to our schools preparing our future workforce.

More information on area public school levies:      Online | PDF

We’ll discuss public education at our Jan. 13 Good Morning Greater Spokane Program

Top photos courtesy of Spokane Public Schools and West Valley School District

12 Responses to Supporting Our Public School Levies

  1. Shannon Ahern says:

    Until the teacher’s union allows substandard teachers to be removed, I won’t vote to increase the taxes for the day-to-day operations of the school. I agree with President Obama, , “Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn. That’s a bargain worth making.” It is time to stop letting our government unions have a blank check when it comes to tax dollars and behavior at work. I’m going to vote no on any local tax that pays government workers until the union realize they work for the citizens. This is a new tax. We’ve paid for the educational buildings with the old levy and this is a new one to pay the day-to-day expenses of District 81.

  2. Kevin Dudley says:

    Shannon –

    It’s important to distinguish levies from bonds – bonds build buildings, levies fund important education tools and resources that helps kids learn. With additional funding for many districts on the proposed chopping block in Olympia, now is not the time to abandon our public schools. School reform issues are abundant, but not passing a levy is not the answer. Advocating in Olympia to your state legislators is. These levies make up roughly 25 percent (depending on the district) of our school districts’ budgets. Leaving a 25% hole in the budget will have large impacts both for the economy and the education sector.

    Kevin Dudley
    Greater Spokane Incorporated

  3. Rich Hadley says:

    Kevin is correct. We are all tired of misinformation.

  4. Kathy Russell says:

    I’m voting yes. I do not want our schools understaffed or underfunded. I hear no alternatives of what schools are supposed to do without the 1/4 of their staff or budget. I for one would be concerned sending my kids to a stripped down school if these levies fail and I cannot afford private school. Opponents to the levies do not seem to have any concern about this. Go talk to your legislators for changes. Starving the kid’s education is not the answer!

  5. Dave says:

    1. Irt it not being a new tax:
    Anything that has an end date (like a “3yr” levy tax) has to have a “new” one started in order to “remain” in place so it’s perfectly accurate to say it’s a new tax.

    2. Actual levy rates and Levy Equalization Funds (LEF):
    The levy rate most often used by school districts is the smaller, LEF assisted one. However, with our current economy, this is a time when LEF funds could go away and people should plan accordingly. That would cause the amount taken by this levy to be approximately 22% more than the optimistic school dist claims.

    3. Irt A) It being 28% (mead) of their budget & B) What the levy $ is and is not used for:
    A levy is meant to be a one time fill-gap revenue stream that might be necessary once every 10-20 yrs. It’s “NOT” meant to be a “constant” revenue stream… It shows incredibly bad district leadership when they’ve gotten to the point of expecting levies as a never ending part of their budget. It’s extremely disingenuous to say the money “is not” used for new buildings, repairs, pensions, etc. That’s a simple “shell game”. It’s like having a monthly budget (that includes $100 each for phone, power, partying, and gas) and saying “gee mom, I don’t have enough money to cover all my monthly bills; If you could give me $100 I can pay my pwr bill”. There’s no way to realistically seperate that $100 out and stipulate it’s actually being used to pay “the pwr bill” as opposed to gas, phone, partying, etc. Similarly (like the phone, pwr, and gas in previous example), if all salaries, pensions, maintenance, etcetera were covered “without” asking for a levy, there would be no request for additional money (like the $100 in previous example) via the levy tax.

    After asserting that funding is inadequate to cover all expenses they request a levy to fund what they choose to define as the underfunded part of the budget. The exact part of the budget the school dist “chooses to say” the levy money pays for is simply a matter of which shell they choose to say it goes towards. Again, it’s a simple shell game of distortion to say “a given amount” of any budget is only going to be used “for select items of that overall budget.”

    4. Despite how this may sound, I’m completely for education funding via a fair and equitable method. A much more equitable method of requesting additional funding should be to request it via a sales tax increase (whatever fraction of a penny required). That way, “everyone” casting a vote would actually be voting to increase “their own taxes” as well as other people’s taxes. Otherwise this type of a levy tax requires a super majority in order to be considered more of a fair vote (#5 below). A cost cutting, as opposed to revenue generating, method of addressing the education budgets would be to address the underfunded TERS1 pensions and work to modify those pensions via negotiations and constitutional changes. The state already acknowledged that TERS1 (stopped in 1977) was unsustainable and a responsible re-negotiation could be done without undue harm to current pension beneficiaries. All other post TERS1 plans should be transitioned to 401K plans. Additionally, cost structures should be reviewed and compared to the charter schools that currently operate for far less money while achieving better scholastic success rates.

    5. If it was a super majority vote this would at least be a fair vote. A super majority vote is necessary anytime you allow a subset group of people to vote on a matter that could be beneficial to them and that they are “not” directly impacted by (in a financially impacting way, i.e. they pay for it). For example (using property ownership rates of 60%), if 65% of “non-property owners” vote “YES”, a levy like this could pass with only 40% of property owners voting for it (even though the property owners pay it).

    If Washington was having a vote to increase the sales tax by 2% you wouldn’t want people from Idaho to be allowed to vote because, as stated above, they would be a subset of voters that don’t have to pay for the tax but could actually benefit as their sales went up due to people going into Idaho to avoid the 2% increase.

    The counter point of “renters pay these fees via rent” is ridiculous because only in a perfect system would this be the case. In actuality, landlords can only charge what the market will bear. Meaning, if a landlord can’t get a renter at a price that covers the levy costs he/she has to lower the rent in order to rent the unit out…

  6. Kevin Dudley says:

    Dave –

    I don’t know where you’re getting a lot of your information, so I can only talk about what I know to be true.

    Levies are necessary because the cost of education goes beyond what the state and federal governments are providing. In fact, the Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled that the state isn’t funding education as much as it is lawfully supposed to. That’s why school districts are asking to replace the expiring three-year levies.

    If you want to reform how the education system is run, by all means do so in Olympia or at a school board meeting. Again, denying your local school levy won’t improve anything – it will only hurt.

    Kevin Dudley
    Greater Spokane Incorporated

  7. Dave says:

    First I’d like to thank you for the reply (and for allowing a contrary comment to stand without being deleted like so many people do). Being open to a civil debate and not censoring things is a good quality to have. I have 2 responses to your reply and a new comment (#3, that I’m very interested in your opinion on):

    1. “I don’t know where you’re getting a lot of your information, so I can only talk about what I know to be true.”
    — Much of it is pure and simple mathematics (like the reasons necessitating a supermajority vote and the sales tax preference methodology). Basic accounting explains the shell game of attempting to specify where specific budget funds get spent. Additionally, when you say you’re talking about things you “know to be true” and then you refer to a court decision that provided no usable information (see #2 below) as far as solidifying a “truth” is hard to read..

    — The new tax vs. replacement argument is based on the simple fact that something with an end date requires a “new one” iot “begin again”. What if, after paying off your mortgage, the bank said “we don’t want you to pay a new mortgage, we’d just like you to pay on this replacement mortgage” for another 30yr term…? How would that go over?

    If we paid levy taxes on a monthly basis, and there was a 1 month break between the old and new levy (meaning the tax would be gone for 1 month), would you agree that the new levy is a new tax? In other words, would you have to actually “See” at least 1 month of taxes “without” the levy to agree that the new levy is a new tax? Exactly what would be the difference between that scenario and having no 1 month gap (aside from the 1 month tax savings) in regard to it being a new levy? Just because these new levies take over with no break, as opposed to the 1 month break in the example, doesn’t change the fact that they’re a new levy/tax (it just makes it “less noticeable” than if there was a break period).

    The less noticeable taxes may be easier to get people to accept but there’s no disputing that it also makes them the most hidden and therefore tricky/dangerous (ALL somewhat hidden taxes, not just school levies). Taxes should be “extremely noticeable” so as not to become forgotten or simply seen as replacements, continuations, etc…

    2. Concerning A) The Washington State Supreme Court ruling and B) “Levies are necessary because the cost of education goes beyond what the state and federal governments are providing.”

    — It really didn’t tell us anything “meaningful” (i.e. qualifiable). It’s like saying “You didn’t fill out this form correctly” or “you are too short to go on this ride”. With no amplifying information those statements are meaningless and there is no way to address either statement. Per #3 above, “A levy is meant to be a one time fill-gap revenue stream that might be necessary once every 10-20 yrs. It’s “NOT” meant to be a “constant” revenue stream…”

    3. Contrary to the apparent beliefs of most levy supporters that people in opposition are sinister child haters, there are many anti-levy citizens with no ulterior motives. I, for one, simply appreciate having actual truths presented (rather than fear invoking commentary and distortions I’ve read/heard). Making it appear that 3yrs of levy costs will be paid in a single yr is an example of distortion on the anti-levy side. Similarly, there are many examples distortions & less than true statements from the pro-levy side. Here’s one irt what levy $ will actually be used for:

    I’d particularly like to read your response to A) the overall message of the bucket/budget line item analogy because it’s based on absolutely factual accounting logic. and B) the summarizing comments in the last 2 sentences of the final paragraph.

    It’s extremely disingenuous to say “specific funds” are for “specific items” of an overall budget. Basic accounting shows that the net impact of a levy is simply to increase the “overall budget” (even if presented as paying for specific items). Here’s an explanation of why (please try to understand that this simply explains the shell game of saying “where” certain $ goes (regardless of your opinion as to the need for the $) and is applicable in many other situations you may encounter besides this one:

    Imagine an $8M budget spread into 10 buckets. If someone decided $8M wasn’t enough and wanted to request more $ they could simply put the entire $8M into buckets 1-8 and say “we need $2M (levy $) but it’s only for buckets 9 & 10” (maintenance & operations, or whatever your specific levy indicates). The net result of the additional $2M would simply be that the new budget is $10M instead of $8M. The shell game here is that they could just as easily have said the $2M is for buckets 1 & 2 or 3 & 5 or 4 & 7 etc. In other words, the “exact” place they “choose” to say the $ goes to is absolutely irrelevant because it’s all part of “one overall budget” that is being spent.

    Regardless of your stance irt the actual need for the $ it’s a complete shell game when they say “don’t worry, the money is only for this bucket or that one”. It raises the Q of why do they need to use shell games to sell a levy; shouldn’t the actual need be strong enough so as not to require moving shells around? Could it be because they need to distract you from looking in some of the other buckets?…

  8. Kevin Dudley says:

    Dave –

    I can’t speak for the different school districts in regards to their budget, but if a levy fails, some of the first items to be cut would be extracurricular activities, the arts, STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and more. These programs are what the state defines as non-basic education.

    Yes, the actual need for school levies is indeed strong enough. But school districts must be transparent and fair when asking for the public’s money – that’s why districts share where the money will go.

    I want to address your comment on the State Supreme Court’s ruling. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t “meaningful,” because it at least brought to light the shortcomings in public education investments from the state. But the ruling hasn’t yet changed much. The court didn’t mandate the legislature to do anything – it basically said, “You’re not funding public education as you should be, but we’ll leave it up to you to fix it.” We’ll see what the legislature does.

    Thanks for your comments!

  9. Dave says:

    Thanks again for the civil discussion. I’m certain that “at least” 95% of levies will pass so this issue will simply continue but I do appreciate your replies.

    1) Irt the court ruling: I completely agree that it didn’t mandate anything and due to that it was a very weak decision. It wasn’t specific enough to even be acted on because without quantifying “some sort” of a figure there’s no way to settle upon how much funding is adequate…

    2) “Yes, the actual need for school levies is indeed strong enough. But school districts must be transparent and fair when asking for the public’s money – that’s why districts share where the money will go.”

    —I may have done a bad job explaining my bucket analogy because the example was to illustrate how “regardless” of where the district says the $ will go (buckets 9&10, 1&3, etc), it’s all simply part of “one” overall budget (the whole 10 buckets). Even if they specifically wrote a $2M check to buckets 9&10 (still representing the levy per my example) it wouldn’t change the fact that the “overall budget” has increased and that the $2M is doing nothing more than allow money that would’ve been paying for buckets 9&10 to be used for other items. It’s like taking money from a household’s food budget and using it for cable & phone then saying I need more food money (levy) and if we don’t get it we’ll starve (arts, STEM, teachers, etc. will be cut). In other words, money that would otherwise pay for

    3) Irt the items you listed as the first to be cut: Why? Isn’t the “exact” items cut determined by the districts? Therefore, they could “choose” to cut anywhere they want (like from the other 8 buckets or the cable & phone items of my previous 2 examples). There’s nothing that forces them to cut any specific program.

    4) Finally, Since the levies are so likely to pass (especially with the lowered simple maj requirement), wouldn’t the money spent by levy supporters (especially in districts with the strongest historical levy support rates) have been better used as simple donations to their respective schools?

    This is a very interesting conversation.

  10. Dave says:

    Just FYI- Something appears to be wrong with the dates coming across on this pg. I just happened to notice it in my last post that said Feb 15, 12:32 AM. It’s currently 10:28 AM on Feb 15th so per that date I posted in the future lol. Just FYI for webmaster types…

  11. Kevin Dudley says:

    Dave –

    Thanks for the heads up. We’ll look into it and see what we can do to fix that.

  12. Danae Abilez says:

    Is there any difference between a IRS levy and an IRS garnishment? I feel so stupid.

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