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January 26, 1998


Voters entitled to both sides of school levy

  I wrote the reply against the Northshore levies recently and was told it wouldn't be included in the voters pamphlet because the school district did not elect to participate. I feel that the voter is entitled to both sides of this issue since it involves a great amount of monies over four years. Within the voters' pamphlet, there is no explanation of how money will be spent. It is left up to the voter's conscience along with the reams of school supplied data to try to come up with a relative understanding of what's going on.
   M&O Levy. This is a 29.24 percent jump from our last M&O levy. When are the bureaucrats that run our school systems going to understand that we taxpayers are being stretched beyond our means? Stop and think how each parent can spend that $300 per year (per hundred thousand valuation) or how the elderly can better take care of themselves. It's time for our school district to get back to the basics of teaching our children the three R's and good citizenship. Let's have them concentrate on bringing up those test scores that look so dismal.
   In the last ten years, we taxpayers have spent 1/3 of a billion dollars for the combined levies and the results have not been increased test scores. Let us see how the district can better utilize the money already provided before we give them more. Give them the incentive of more tax revenue once they have improved upon what they are paid to do and thus hold them accountable. It might also be a good thing to approve raises for administrative staff within these levy requests.
   Capital Improvements Bonds. Of all the money that our district spends, our bond money falls way short of its goals.
   First, the debt collection services on the bonds, shown in Northshore District's financial reports, gobble up 1/6 of this money due to interest and administrative costs. Did you know that the district does not have to issue bonds? They can simply run a levy request now and save you that extra money that would be used for interest.
   Second, the cost of construction is inflated due to mandated wage requirements.
   Third, the improvements don't seem to last long (i.e., school yard equipment, carpeting and other hard goods).
   Fourth, the state kicks in money on a matching basis that we taxpayers aren't told about when these bond issues are brought about.
   Fifth, some of the allotted construction monies never reach their target during that bond request because of projects that have gone over budget and/or re-prioritizing.
   Sixth, projects that have been altered because of design oversights or government restriction will be downsized or parts eliminated to try to stay on budget.
   Seventh, all properties that the district plans to buy and sell should be disclosed during these bond requests.
   Technology Levy. Why are we putting so many of our tax dollars into these specialized support systems? Our school district is still having problems teaching basic skills to our children. While it's believed that computer literacy is important in our everyday life, computers with internet access will not be able to substitute for a teacher who will guide that student in his/her basic required skills. Emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic is what's necessary for providing the foundation the students need in the primary grades.
   Still, fundamentals in computing should be taught as part of the basics. This can be accomplished by having computer labs. To train each teacher to apply ever-changing technology as well as the cost to re-wire and re-engineer our schools should be examined. It should be noted that the district still does not have a vision concerning its main operating system (Apple or Dos?)
   Eight million dollars is a lot of money. Is this investment going to achieve the highest benefit in the educational arena? Is this going to improve the test scores of our children? Sadly, less than a fourth of the money spent will be seen as computers or related devices in front of the student. Perhaps this objective should be substantiated before we open up our pocketbooks again. Please vote NO on this levy.
   Ron Braun,
   Concerned Parents for Better Schools