Camas resident Margaret Tweet shares her thoughts on the Camas School District’s proposed levy on the Feb. 9 special election ballot
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com
On Jan. 22, the Camas School District (CSD) mailed an 8-page report favoring proposed levy rate hikes. No voters’ guide with statements for and against were mailed for the Feb. 9 “Special” election dedicated solely to schools. Voter materials sent with ballots didn’t even mention the online voter’s guide at the elections’ website. For additional info on CSD ballot propositions, see www.schooltaxinfo.com/ and www.swweducation.org/?p=6801 .
The colorful mailer states that the proposed Camas levies will fund programs, “without increasing local tax rates.” However, the Program/Operations levy rate proposed is higher than years 2019-2020. Legislators raised state school taxes dramatically in 2018, and capped the local Operations levy rate at $1.50 per $1000 of assessed property value, (APV) to compensate, effective 2019. However, other lawmakers later lifted that cap, and the Camas School Board voted to raise the Operations levy rate to $2.15 for 2020, then up to the new maximum of $2.50 APV for 2021. The proposed Technology/Capital levy rate nearly doubles from approx $.28 APV in years 2019-2021 up to $.54 APV for 2022-2024, a clear levy tax rate increase. State school tax collections continue to rise too.
Overall, public school spending has doubled in eight years, and Washington’s public schools spent approximately $16,000 per student in 2019. Over half of rising property tax bills go to schools, while other vital services like roads, fire, and more also require public funding. How much is enough for schools?
The wealthy Camas School District shows revenues from all sources, local, state, federal etc. in 2019-20 to be about $133,213,785 for approximately 7234 students. That translates to about $18,414 in revenues per student. Five different fund balances held a total of approximately $ 57,278,091 in reserve in 2019-20. Although 5 percent in reserves is prudent, the district insists on 10 percent in reserves, and could change that policy. Reserves are described in part as rainy-day funds.
This COVID economic lockdown is certainly a time to draw from reserves if needed, instead of raising levy rates. Businesses face harsh regulations, lost revenues, closures, and unfair B&O taxes, whether they make a profit or not. Unemployment has skyrocketed, working hours have been cut, and fixed income residents struggle to keep up.
Camas administrators, teachers, and staff have been mainly shielded from economic hardships faced in the community. “Camas compensation is the highest in Clark County and fourth highest statewide in terms of cost as a percentage of overall budget… benefits are currently equal to about 39% of salaries.” Government pensions will pay for retirement for many district employees.
The district collected the full Operations/Programs levy funds in 2020, yet closed schools and halted or reduced many extracurricular programs as well as local transportation. How much has the district saved? Student enrollment has dropped, about 6 percent lower than January 2020.
Parents, students, and the community have expressed concern about the Comprehensive Sex Education curriculum. The Operations Levy raises more funds for school-based healthcare, that may offer controversial advice and referrals to minor students without parental knowledge or consent. For details, see Parents’ Rights In Education .
Area teachers are being asked to accept fast tracked experimental vaccines approved for emergency use only. The number of adverse reactions to COVID vaccinations include at least 7,844 reactions including 181 deaths reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) as of 1.15.2021. Concerns about these products still in clinical trials are being overlooked.
Camas schools have abundant means to serve a declining student population, at the same Technology/Capital levy rate as 2019-2021. The Programs/Operations levy should be restored to the 2019 levy rate caps, $1.50 APV, promised when state taxes were boosted. Vote “No” to hold back rising property taxes.