The Battle Ground school district emailed out their most recent newsletter on Thursday February 13th (here: https://www.battlegroundps.org/taxes/) The title header of the email? Battle Ground has lowest school taxes in Clark County, receives less funding than voters approved
Is that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me….?
The file in this attachment was emailed to each of the BG Directors on Feb 21st: Ltr_BGSB_Directors_Feb_21_2020_Levy_Claims
They (School Board and District) claim BGSD has the lowest school taxes in Clark County and that the district gets less than the voters approved. Is that truth or half-truth or a lie?
Fact: The last levy was approved in 2017 and goes through 2021. That was before the State dramatically raised property taxes to comply with the McCleary decision. At the same time the Legislature raised property taxes by almost $1/$1000 of assessed value they capped the local levy at $1.50/$1000 of assessed value January 1, 2019 (to somewhat offset the increase in higher taxes). [Note: Before the end of 2019 the Legislature raised the cap to $2.50/$1000. Why you ask? Because the school districts gave away the new money to teachers and were going to run deficits.]
The 2017 levy approval allowed for $3.31/$1000 in 2017 and $3.45/$1000 in 2018. The Legislature increased the $1.50 cap to $2.50, so as long as the last approved levy was at or above $2.50. Since the approval of $3.31 (in 2017) then the school board could increase from $1.50 to $2.50 WITHOUT asking for telling the taxpayers. So legally the Board was within their rights to increase the rate.
Truth: Battle Grounds “levy rate” is the HIGHEST of any district in SWW. Check their wording “…has the lowest taxes in Clark County, receiving less funding than voters approved”. When you add the levy’s to the capital bonds their statement is correct in total. So is that truth or a half-truth? The next closest levy rate “would have been” Woodland’s…but…it failed. So, when voters in Woodland were asked to approve an increase from $1.50 to $2.37 they said NO! So what if the Battle Ground voters had been asked to approve the increase from $1.50 to $2.50? The Board thinks the vote would have been yes but it’s moot. They didn’t ask and didn’t want to know. They just took.
The issue? Apples and Oranges. The last levy was approved based on the “old” system. Given that the “new” system is so dramatically different would voters have approved the last levy if they knew what was going to happen now? No way to tell but given the past issues passing levies and bonds it is reasonable to believe the answer could have been NO. Under the prior system the amount of levies was fixed and now it’s an amount of $$$ per $1000 of assessed value (so as property values increase taxes increase). Under the old system the state hadn’t raised school property taxes and given more money to districts (like has happened).
The Battle Ground school board of directors increased taxes by $1/$1000 (with only 1 director voting no) in August 2019 as part of the 2019/2020 budget. They included the increase in the budget but neglected to tell the public. There was no specific vote to raise the property taxes. District leadership knew…but the public was told….NOTHING!!! No one caught it. That old $3.31 approval was under the “old” levy system and should have been meaningless because the taxing system totally changed. Did the board of directors have a moral obligation to tell the public? Why bury it? Answer: Because they didn’t want deal the outrage that could have ensued. They didn’t want the questions from the public. They had used the money and, like an addict, needed another fix.
Every school district got more money from the State. However, teachers across the state either went on strike or threatened to strike if they didn’t get double digit pay increases. Like all other districts the BGSD directors gave most of the money from the State to the union (when it was actually intended to be used to run the district). That meant that the district was going in the hole and needed more money…thus the clandestine tax increase.
Is it the increase in taxes that should bother you or the hidden, sneaky way it was done?
Now they try to make it seem that the BGSD is a saint and getting less money than they are entitled to. What are they setting the stage for? The levy runs out in 2021 and they are going to come back and ask you for more money. They are setting the stage with an information campaign that is based on half-truths. So be on the lookout for more and more communication softening you up. They will likely ask for the same $2.50 saying the children will be hurt if you don’t vote yes (they will say anything less is a “cut”). They may even ask for a separate “tech levy” like other districts have. Legally they could ask you to approve multiple levies for different uses.
Trust? Truth? We have had other situations in the past where the Board/District said one thing and did another. They promised “transparency” and communication…but they didn’t tell us or ask us about the levy increase. We didn’t catch the increase and they didn’t feel compelled to tell us. If your home is assessed at $400,000 your 2020 property tax bill went up $400. Oh wait…the state property tax went back up $.30/$1000 = another $120 = $520. Our personal property taxes increased 21% and 88% of that is for…schools. I hope your funding well doesn’t run dry…mine’s sucking sand.
Don’t even think about the other tax increases that are coming. Battle Ground City residents just voted to tax themselves another $1.30/$1000 for fire protection. That adds another $520 for a $400,000 home. (They do get a tiny decrease in the utility taxes). Look for your new property tax bills showing up in the mail and see what yours looks like.
We all want our children well educated and prepared for the adult world. We want the best teachers. We all want the best but when do we equate spending with outcomes? How long do we continue to pump billions of dollars into a system that drifts farther and farther from education and more and more into esoteric areas of “feelings” and “kumbaya”?
Washington State has seen massive increases in funding for K-12. Over 53% of the ENTIRE state budget now goes to schools. Here’s a look at the increases in spending since 2011: https://swweducation.org?p=6332
Does more money mean better test scores? https://swweducation.org?p=6125
https://swweducation.org?p=5774 (Battle Ground test scores)
- You are seeing the beginning of a public relations campaign to ask for approval of a new levy next year. The amount won’t go down.
- A new levy to be followed by a new bond. (Levy in 2021 and bond in 2022 or 2023)
- They will tug at your heart strings and lament the impact on children if you don’t give them more money. In the meantime the quality of education and the measurable testing outcomes show little to no improvement and in some cases declines. S.E.L.; PBIS; Common Core; Comprehensive Sex Ed…what’s happened to basic education?
- BG has the highest levy rate of any district in SWW
- BG has the lowest capital bond rate. They used Camas as a comparison so if BG had the same capital bond rate as Camas the total BG rate would be $2.50 + $3.13 + $.28 = $5.91 which would be the HIGHEST rate in SWW. They can’t use one district to make their case unless they are prepared to use the same debt burden
- If BG got the voters to approve the $2.50 rate in 2021 and then got voters to approve a capital bond with a cost of say $1.80 = $4.30 which would put BG is the #2 highest taxed district. Note: They will be asking for a new bond in the next couple of years but they want you to focus on now because that fits their meme.
Wait for the new taxes coming from the State…you haven’t seen anything yet. So what’s the truth?