As usual, special interests prevailed on school levy
February 26, 2009 · 10:51 AM
The recent slam-dunk school levy victory confirms the late state Sen. Bob Oke’s concern over the simple-majority requirement when elections are held on off-dates.
I once asked the senator if he would support a 50-percent-plus-one measure, and he said he would if elections were held in November, which would eliminate the possibility of special interests influencing/stealing the election from the majority of voters.
It happened as feared in the last school levy election. The largest employer in the community used the brilliant slogan, “Kids Matter,” and a well-funded campaign to influence/steal the election.
A total of $17,145 campaign dollars flooded every communications medium to get out the message, with the funds coming mostly from school district employees and their strongest union.
A total of 39,752 ballots were mailed at a cost to the taxpayers and the school district of $104,662.79. Of these, a total of 19,919 were returned — a sad turnout.
This is the norm, however, after a presidential election. Only 28 percent of the voters passed a four-year, $70 million levy — which includes millions of built-in inflationary dollars.
This, while deflation is the word of the day for those wanting to stay in business.
This levy represents a 66 percent increase from 2006. The district staffing level remains the same, even though they are educating 1,000 fewer students now — with enrollment still declining.
The in-house, appointed-but-not-competitively-selected superintendent is currently making $146,000 (the same salary as the previous superintendent after five years of experience).
Also, a deputy superintendent has been appointed — a first for the district.
This is thousands more than the state Superintendent of Public Instruction is making.
While we read every day about other districts’ staffing cuts, boundary changes and school closures, our district has picked the low-hanging fruit to save money.
The mid-year financial report showed excess and the emergency fund being restored to 3 percent.
There are no safeguard to stop this. Many vote for levies because it is about the kids or the firefighters.
After all, who could say no to either of these groups?
With an average income of $48,000 in this community, each resident needs to have a vote in these levies during November elections.
While the campaign team celebrated the victory at McCormick Woods, many in the community are struggling just to make ends meet.
Editor’s Note: Chris Lemke is a former member of the South Kitsap School District board of directors.