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Two views – one for, one against – on Eatonville schools levy

11:42 am February 10th, 2014

YES: Continue what other generations gave us

By Rich and Ruthie Williams
Let’s take a look at Bob Thomas’ first point. I can’t argue with the mathematics. It looks correct; however, positions like these always leave out offsetting statistics.
He stated that the Pierce County assessor’s office and Zillow estimate real estate values will increase in this area at an annual rate of 5.1 percent. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? I think most people will be relieved that their home values are strting to recover from the recession. In fact, if your home is worth $175,000 now, according to his statistics, it will be worth $213,525.09 in 2018. That’s a $38,525.09 increase in value. Part of this positive projection is based on the quality of education the schools have provided in this area. I’ve been a businessman all my life, and if I have to invest an additional $149 a year in our schools to realize $38,525.09 increase in my net worth, count me in.
Another related issue that seems to be overlooked during our fast-paced lifestyle is the foundation we are all standing upon. Mr. Thomas will say this is irrelevant and a “red herring,” but I’ll leave that up to you. The town of Eatonville was built by people who had a passion for living life outside the more structured and regulated life of the city. These people were strong-minded, independent and hard-working. Their wives were equal in strength and character and spent their time raising their children and supporting the basic needs of the family. In their precious spare time, they worked together to create schools, churches and civic organizations like the Grange, the Orthopedic and the PTA. Their focus was to create a balanced life for themselves and support a promising future for their children.
In 1914, all their efforts caused a stir as far away as Chicago. Eatonville had passed a bond that year that addressed the need for a new high school. There were only five dissenting votes. The communities’ vision was to build a new high school that provided the best educational opportunities for their children. In addition to a good education, they wanted the school to teach their children that character, citizenship, physical fitness and good moral character would have a positive effect on their lives.
When the high school was completed in 1916, it was revered as one of the best high schools in the nation for a community of its size. “Public Educator” in Chicago had lengthy articles with pictures showcasing the school. Since that period, through good times and bad, another generation carried on with the same passion and dedication, passing levies and bonds to keep up with the growth of the area and the educational needs of the students. My wife and I were recipients of this effort and were well-prepared for the future when we graduated. We owe a debt of gratitude to the generation that came before us.
To sum up, Eatonville’s strongest asset through the years has always been its school system. Yes, from time to time, there have been areas of division and concern, but we’ve always been able to work them out because we saw the value in doing so. I’m hopeful that Mr. Thomas will begin to realize that the relevance of this institution and its impact on this area far outweigh personal politics.
As the election approaches, we need to focus and reflect on what the previous generations have provided for us and realize it is now our turn. The baton has been passed. Do we throw it on the ground, or do we continue the struggle to make Eatonville a better place for us and for future generations? We think a majority of people in this district still have that pioneer independence and spirit. It’s that inner strength that will prevail.

Rich and Ruthie Williams are residents of the Eatonville School District.

NO: Thick wool is being pulled over our eyes

By Robert Thomas
Three reasons to vote no on the Eatonville School District levy:
1. Your taxes will increase, not stay the same.
Superintendent Krestin Bahr and others speaking on behalf of the district have intentionally misled the community regarding property tax increases associated with the school levy currently up for renewal. The district published a list of “Frequently Asked Questions,” first of which was “How much will the levy cost me?” They correctly point out that the rate will be the same, but avoided stating the obvious: Thanks to increases in assessed property values, property tax revenues will increase at least 11 percent through 2018 according to Eatonville School District’s own predictions in The Dispatch (“Eatonville schools have ‘very important’ levy,” Jan. 22). A more probable assessment based on data from the Pierce County assessor and Zillow.com is that Eatonville real estate values will continue to recover at a rate of about 5.1 percent annually. For someone who currently lives in a home valued at $175,000, you can look at the school district’s cut of your rent or mortgage payments increasing from $677 to $826, a 22 percent increase through 2018.
2. Our taxes are already too high.
“Pierce County has the highest average property tax rate in Washington, higher than more populous and affluent King County or any of the other 37 counties in the state.” (The News Tribune, Nov. 24, 2013
The good people of Chicago finally realized this summer that continuously raising taxes beyond a reasonable level didn’t really help anyone that wasn’t a government employee. They coined a term to describe people that claim to be helping the community by raising taxes: Poverty Pimps. Poverty Pimps always claim they could make things better if they had more (of your) money, when all they actually accomplish is to undermine the health of a community by strangling economic opportunity. Ms. Bahr attempts to lessen the blow of the overall tax picture by comparing Eatonville School District to other Pierce County school districts with higher school levy rates so that Eatonville doesn’t seem bad by comparison (Eatonvillenews.net, Jan 13, 2013). That’s like saying being a crack addict isn’t as bad as being a heroin addict. Both situations are frequently terminal.
3. High taxes ruin the local economy. But, good schools attract people to the community, don’t they?
Let’s see: “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying and Selling a Home” (pages 74-76) states that the job situation (i.e., the commute to/from work), family needs, schools, taxes, emergency services, and recreational opportunities normally dictate where people buy homes. Let’s look at Eatonville: Long commutes to work at the area’s major employers, limited parks and playgrounds for the kids (especially on the west side), fair schools (don’t shoot the messenger – Eatonville School District earned a 6 of 10 rating on Moving.com), insane taxes, and 35-plus miles to the nearest hospital. No wonder the housing market is cold. The cost of living here doesn’t outweigh the benefits (unless you work for the school district). If people have to pay through the nose to work in Pierce County, why not live in Puyallup, South Hill, Graham, etc., and save the fuel costs to work and shopping areas? Take a peek at Zillow.com and see how many houses are on the market (153). If you live in town, you already know that homes for sale sit empty for a very long time, not a good situation for local business or the town of Eatonville. There’s also not much point in new housing construction with so many properties on the market. Eatonville appears stagnant.
Sorry, I’m not getting paid to produce levy propaganda or use tax dollars for electioneering as are the pro-levy crowd; this is on my own time. Alternatively I may do “School Levy Myths,” like blaming Olympia for only funding 75 percent of the operations and maintenance tab instead of blaming the district for the size of the budget itself (the proverbial $100 hammer). If they’d start teaching economics and labor relations in high school, the situation might not ever come up if the people of Eatonville fully understood how thick the wool is that’s being pulled over our eyes by the school district and the EEA.

Robert Thomas is an Eatonville resident.

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