Letter: ‘We have something very special and unique here in Camas in our stellar school system’

Camas resident Tammy Herdener shares her thoughts on two Camas School District levies 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

The Camas community has supported schools through local levies for more than 40 years because of the deeply held belief that a strong education makes a strong city. Many move to Camas because of the outstanding reputation of our school district. Camas schools offer a unifying power in this community.

Tammy Herdener, chair Camas Citizens for Quality Schools
Tammy Herdener, chair, Camas Citizens for Quality Schools

Local levy dollars provide a tremendous return on investment when one considers how important strong schools are to the short and long-term health of any community.

The two levies on the February 9th ballot are not new taxes. They replace, or continue, two levies expiring at the end of 2021, one for operations, one for capital/technology.

In voting yes for these two levies, the good news is that when we get our tax statements this year, we will actually see a drop in our local school taxes. In 2020, we all paid $5.56/$1,000 of our assessed valuation (AV), and in 2021, it will drop to $4.77. With the renewal of Propositions 4 and 5, citizens will see a continued overall decrease of $0.80 per $1,000 assessed value in local school taxes from 2020. The overall local school tax rate for 2022-2024 will remain at the 2021 level of $4.77.

Another measure of school investment is the per-pupil rate. Districts with higher poverty qualify for more funding in general. Even though Washington’s public schools spent approximately $16,000 per student in 2019, Camas School District spends $12,842 per student. Camas School District spends less per-student than most of the surrounding schools. Below are some of the spending rates per-pupil in the surrounding area.

Per Pupil Spending (Source: OSPI)

Washougal          $14,285

Evergreen           $13,849

Vancouver          $13,747

Battle Ground      $13,236

Camas                $12,842

The levies are vital to maintaining the high quality of education in Camas. Camas School District (like all Washington school districts) relies on local, voter-approved levy dollars to make up the difference between state funding and basic education costs.

Sadly, if the levies are not passed, we might not recognize Camas schools because class sizes will go up, extracurricular programs would be reduced, building repair would be rationed, breakfast and lunch prices, and the length of time students spend on the bus would increase, and the list goes on. The funding difference is significant: levies make up 15-20 percent of Camas School District’s budget. If we were to align our budget to State and Federal funding, without local funding from these levies, we would not be able to continue so much of the excellent educational and extracurricular programs Camas Schools offer. Additionally, many employees would lose their jobs. The amount of money we would have to maintain or replace computers, roofs, and HVAC systems would be severely reduced.

We have something very special and unique here in Camas in our stellar school system. We are proud to live in a community that values education. It is our community support that makes our schools strong and vibrant. Your ballot has arrived via mail and we urge you to join us and vote YES. Your vote counts!

Tammy Herdener, chair
Camas Citizens for Quality Schools

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