Opinion

School district out to pick our pockets again

Sound Off is a public forum. Articles are selected from letters to the editor or may be written specifically for this feature. Today, Port Orchard resident Larry L. Mann questions the need to pass a school levy in South Kitsap.

In Chris Chancellor’s Sept. 27 article, “School district mulls two levy options,” local comedienne (and occasionally also South Kitsap School District budget director) Terri Patton refers to her levy proposals as a “miniseries” and notes that these normally fail in a very short time.

SKSD levies are always run as a special election because they cannot get one to pass when placed on the same ballot with other measures in a primary or general election.

You will note that the library and school levy proposals will more likely than not be joined into one in February 2009, and that would comprise a special election.

Remember also that SKSD still has the failed 2007 school bond they’re going to force you to pass also on a special election.

Chancellor’s article state’s that, “The session is open for public comment.”

In response, I would ask why?

Did they listen to public input on their $167 million bond? No.

The next school district comment is, “The board already has decided it wants a four-year levy to run through 2013.”

So much for public input, because school districts do not listen to public input, just as SKSD did not listen in in 2007 — which resulted in the failure of its last bond.

They’ve already made up their mind. Again.

Patton clearly lists needed features, including, an “8 percent inflator on salaries.”

In fact, teachers statewide received a cost-of-living adjustment in 2008 and two pay increases, according to Legislature records, in 2008.

Also note that the average pay for teachers in SKSD, by pay record in 2007, is $70,000, plus an average of $15,000 in additional benefits.

For six months of actual teaching at four hours a day or less.

Patton says they want this 8 percent in 2010, and if it passes this 8 percent will happen immediately.

Then the next three years they want an additional 6 percent, each year, on top of the 8 percent they get in 2009.

You may ask, 6 percent and 8 percent of what? And that would be the average $85,000 in total compensation teachers are paid now.

Think about those numbers. These are huge salary increases SKSD wants from your income, and this poses a question: Do you want to throw more of your property tax dollars into the SKSD money pit?

Then by all means pass any levy SKSD puts in front of you and increase teacher salaries, decrease your ability to feed your family, decrease your ability to buy gas to get to work to feed your family, and contribute to the already failing economy.

The rest of Patton’s reasons in Chancellor’s article all pertain to added money, and I will not address them because they are all on the same mentality level as what I just talked about.

School roofs? Let’s see, Orchard Heights Elementary needs half a roof (the other half was replaced in 2005).

Immediately, questions come to mind because school districts in this state do no preventive maintenance, knowing that they can force the taxpayers to pass a levy.

Orchard Heights Elementary, or example, had half of its roof done in 2005, so why was only half of the roof done when costs were lower than now?

Burley Glenwood Elementary needs a roof? This school has had insulation hanging out of the ceiling and leaking since 2003.

I have gone there to school board meetings and PTA functions for years. Oh gee, did we just discover that we have a preventative maintenance problem you now want the taxpayers to correct for you?

I don’t think we should pay for their failure to maintain buildings.

“We’ve got to show them we’re changing things,” school board vice president Keith Garton said. “We’re not just throwing money at things.”

Very true. However, you are throwing money at increased teacher salaries and increased teacher benefits.

Which raises the question, “Why don’t you just continue to plunder money from Legislature-appropriated funds as former Superintendent Bev Cheney stated in the news media was “the norm in SKSD?”

Lastly, according to Chancellor’s article, “Even though taxpayers’ contribution could increase by as much as .30 cents a year with the replacement levy, Patton noted that the district has tightened its own budget this year.”

Oh really? Then how many district staff members have been removed (as in laid off) from employment?

How many district staff had their pay frozen or cut back?

Name names and present records, otherwise that is a false statement made to deceive the public into passing a levy. Good try, though.

Patton is also quoted as saying each school is required to cut its budget 10 percent this school year from the previous one.

I know other districts have already cut the poor quality of student food still more. I know cutting costs requires parents to buy even more school supplies that are funded by the levies, sales tax, license tax, lottery tickets, etc., and I don’t think this is the 10 percent cut she’s talking about.

My employer says, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

Parents and voters need to be told what has been done by SKSD to cut costs and to justify the passing of any levy, especially any that has teacher salaries and benefits attached to it.

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