LETTER: ‘Where will the money come from?’


[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Normandy Park Blog nor its staff:]

WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM?

It is important that the citizens of the Highline School District understand the enormous commitment they are being asked to make by the Highline School District Board on February 10th. For this reason, Karen Steele, Normandy Park resident, founded an educational committee called Sensible Spending on Our Schools (SSOS). She feels that every citizen should know the breadth and scope of this Bond and its effect on their lives.

Unfortunately, Lois Schipper, President of Highline Citizens for Schools, in an attempt to quash the opposition to the Highline School Consruction Bond, felt compelled to file a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). Lois Schipper claims that the proper paperwork was not filed with the PDC. However, contrary to Lois Schipper’s notions, Karen Steele assures that all necessary paperwork has been filed with the appropriate agencies and that nothing illegal or improper has occurred. And while the PDC is doing it’s duty and looking into Lois’s complaint, SSOS has not been charged with any wrong doing.

In August 2014, when Sensible Spending on Our Schools was founded and the PDC was contacted, Karen Steele was directed to file with the Department of Revenue. A separate account was opened at Chase Bank in Burien and every transaction has been recorded and documented and all expenditures accounted for.

Lois Schipper is mortified that anyone would dare oppose the Highline School Construction Bond. The fact that they have raised over $200,000, are calling voters even 3 times a day pestering them to vote yes and mailing out copious amounts of brochures and advertisements to voters, substantiates her view that voters should not have a difference of opinion. Karen Steele says that this is not North Korea; we enjoy our First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech and every voter has the right to vote as they wish.

The Highline School District Bond was Proposition 1 in the November 2014 election and did not obtain the necessary votes to pass. In the February 10th, 2015 election, it is Proposition 2. Is this to confuse the voters? It is the same Bond as before, less 9 million dollars or 376 million dollars and even though the voters have turned it down, the Highline School District Board has ignored this and has put it back on the ballot only 3 short months later..

Susan Enfield, Highline School Superintendent, has declared that she will put it back on the ballot until it passes. Unfortunately, the Highline School District Board has not listened to the voters. The voters have asked for input regarding the contents of the bond but the Highline School District has ignored this request. Now, there are desperate attempts by the HSDB to hold meetings to explain the bond but this should have occurred before the bond was placed back on the ballot, not after. Also on the ballot is the Maintenance and Operations (M & O) Levy which is asking for $170 million over 3 years down from 4 years for our previous Levy. This is a 22% increase over the previous levy. Together with the school bond, the total is 546 million dollars and that is just to start with. There are two previous bonds that we still haven’t paid off. In the year 2035, the total amount paid for these bonds will be over 1 Billion Dollars.

This bond is more expensive than the citizens of Highline can afford. And yet, Susan Enfield has promised that in 3 years or so, another bond will be presented for us to fund. Where is all this money supposed to come from?

In addition, Dow Constantine and Jim McDermott are planning on asking the citizens to pay for a new Light Rail System to Burien next year. Then there is the plan to ask the citizens for money to fund schooling for children in a program called Cradle Through College. Our Police are also going to seek funding for a new radio system throughout King County for a system that is sorely in need of updating. If the Initiative 1351, which calls for a reduction in class size and was approved by the voters last year gets funded to the tune of $5 Billion, what will happen to the schools that the Highline School Board wants to build? The class sizes will be cut in half but where will they put the additional classes and who is going to pay for the additional teachers?

Just where is all this money going to come from? Yes, you guessed it. The voters.

We must send a clear message with our votes that this Bond is not acceptable and we can’t afford it. We have a voice and we have freedom of speech. We must speak out and stop this money grab.

And then there is the maintenance of the new schools should they get built. The maintenance department at Highline was reduced to 28 employees from 53 and the schools have suffered because of this. In speaking to a maintenance person who works at Highline, they said that the pile of requisitions on their desk far exceeds their ability to fix the problems. If the maintenance of the existing schools borders on neglect, than what will happen with the new schools which will have their own set of problems as new construction so often does? Will the HSDB come to the voters once again asking for yet more money to maintain the schools?

The Highline School District Board has a vast staff of 37, all of whom are paid over $100,000 per year. They have Directors and Assistants who are also all paid very high salaries. Even the teachers don’t make $100,000 per year. There has been no effort on the part of HSDB to curtail expenditures and reign in their budgets. It is no wonder that the citizens of the Highline School District have lost faith in the ability of the HSD Board to effectively manage the citizens’ hard earned dollars.

Even in the round robin of meetings taking place right now, the School Board dominates the discussions and there is little input from the citizenry that attend. And while the discussion is directed around the children, it does not get centered around why the citizens, who show up at these meetings, have no input into the composition of the bond.. It is as if the Highline School District is trying to show that they are catering to the citizens when in fact, it is nothing more than a photo op to make it appear as if they care.

The Highline School District Board has got to open their ears and their eyes to the fact that the citizens of Highline will not be played. We are not pawns on their over populated play board to be manipulated and told half truths and moved along to a result that we don’t want.

What we want is a school bond that we can afford; we want remedies that are based on common sense and decisions based on sound economic principles, not some pie in the sky wish list of expensive over the top buildings and a slush fund to satisfy the voracious appetite of this School Board. I urge every Highline citizen to vote NO. Not voting is not a no vote. Putting a check next to REJECT on your ballot is a NO vote. Mail your ballots early and let your voices be heard!

– Karen Steele
SSOS
Sensible Spending on Our Schools
17837 1st. So., #276
Normandy Park, WA 98148

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