Consider all numbers in levies
January 26, 2010 · 12:38 PM
In an affluent community like Mercer Island, it is almost sacrilegious to question any school levy. Generally, Mercer Islanders automatically approve any request for school funding. But has anyone looked closely at the proposed tax increases? Before blindly voting for the levies, we should challenge the Mercer Island School District to provide a detailed explanation for the size of each.
The recently mailed District News states that the proposed general fund levy will renew the current levy. Not so! It proposes an increase of 18.5 percent in 2011, followed by increases of 7.5 percent in each of the next three years — a total increase of over 47 percent in four years!
The so-called enhancement in the capital projects levy is in addition to the existing levy passed in 2008. Consequently, the enhancement will increase capital fund taxes by 56 percent in 2011.
It is not valid to compare levy rates of other communities (as Michael Dickstein did last week in his Island Forum column). If our levy rates are lower, it’s because our assessed property values are higher. Ultimately, it’s total dollars, not levy rates, that matter.
Yes, local levies are an important part of school funding. But why are the increases so big? Where is the detailed budget for current and projected expenses to justify these levies? It isn’t sufficient just to provide a laundry list of services and facilities that these levies will pay for. How much will each of these items cost? What is the projected state and federal funding? How much of a shortfall are we actually facing?
Editor’s Note: The three current proposed school district levies are all considered renewal levies, as the district has run levies similar in recent years which will all expire at the end of the 2010 tax year. While monetary amounts collected vary depending on several factors, districts call these replacement levies, as the proposed levy fills the void left by an expiring one.