POINT OF VIEW: Vote ‘no’ on PASD levy

Susan Shotthafer

Susan Shotthafer

COMMON SENSE, CONCERN for our entire community’s welfare and frugality guide our opposition to Port Angeles School District’s $52 million levy proposal increasing PASD property taxes 175 percent.

Voters rejected as unaffordable PASD’s requested $2.19 per $1,000 assessed property valuation in 2014 for a bond and $2.47 per $1,000 for a levy in 2018. PASD now seeks a more excessive $2.62. PASD’s EP&O (Educational Programs and Operations) levy dropped from $3 to $1.50. This levy proposes $2.62 more.

That is in addition to state school taxes, which have risen since 2017. From 2017’s $2.09, state 2020 school taxes rise to an estimated $3.07 per $1,000.

If older homes need new heating, plumbing or electrical systems, common sense requires least costly solutions — systems replacements. Razing homes because of such insufficiencies exemplifies extreme wastefulness considering countless possible productive expenditures. Which levy proponents are sufficiently wealthy to demolish their homes if similar improvements were needed?

Education Week estimated $4.5 million as the average school renovation cost in a 2019 article. Real world evidence demonstrates renovation viability. Unlike millions of home and thousands of school modernizations nationwide, levy proponents say Stevens’ students’ daily “unintentional corrosion” makes demolition necessary rather than renovation. What? Apparently, students elsewhere don’t corrode buildings.

A school director characterizing opponents’ use of “modular” and “wasteful spending” as buzz words displayed disappointing indifference toward affordability and frugality. Without any substantiation, levy supporters regularly disparage modular construction with minimally 35 percent cost savings. We suggest modular buildings if classrooms were needed and substantiate modular’s advantages at our website, www.stoppaschooltax.com.

For many taxpayers recognizing school directors’ fiduciary responsibility, levy proponents’ dismissal of modular’s minimal 35 percent cost savings constitutes “wasteful spending.”

Proponents disregard Washington State Office of Public Instruction’s approval of and ability to financially assist a district’s modular construction that satisfies OSPI specifications. The Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol meets local building codes and is on a permanent slab with buried utilities.

This proposal “honoring” a decade-old facilities committee plan for each school sites buildings’ costly demolition and replacement, and needlessly delays the date when all schools operate with new, efficient electrical, plumbing, heating and safety updates. Hamilton waits until after 2037, Roosevelt after 2043.

With dollars saved by only replacing worn-out systems and installing safety updates, PASD could provide for all schools much sooner and substantially reduce taxpayers’ burdens.

Appealing for safety, levy supporters promise vestibules. Will vestibules protect students at recess or waiting for busses? Psychopaths intending mayhem don’t need classroom access.

Legislators in Olympia currently propose HB1035 to provide a school resource officer for every Washington state school. One SRO serves PASD’s entire district. If HB1035 fails, PASD’s hiring of SROs for every school and posted notices of armed security would much more effectively protect students.

Another alternative is cutting edge steel shelters that can be added to classrooms to secure students and staff from bullets, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes in a matter of seconds.

Keeping in mind the safety priority, school directors could request a safety levy to purchase these units protecting against 9.5 magnitude earthquakes and shooters for all schools instead of waiting until after 2043.

Ignoring sizable differences between our local economy compared to wealthier districts, levy proponents turn cold shoulders to low income workers, renting families trying to save for home ownership, fixed income property owners and small businesses, particularly considering the approximately 20 percent property evaluation hikes.

Using dollars unspent for demolition and replacement, homeowners could buy energy-efficient windows, a growing family’s room addition, efficient outdoor watering systems, landscaping to beautify homes and community, children’s music lessons, family camping equipment, ad infinitum.

We could donate to hospitals, charities, scholarship funds, libraries and countless other meaningful purposes.

This $52 million plan would significantly preclude individual freedom to choose worthwhile purchases.

For our entire community’s well being, we suggest common sense, basic modernization and safety proposals limiting taxpayers’ burdens. Please vote no!


Susan Shotthafer is a former Port Angeles School Board member.